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Melbourne Fire Could Take Days To Put Out

Fire chiefs believe a huge blaze at a warehouse in Melbourne's inner-west could take several days to extinguish after crews worked through the night to douse the flames.

Firefighters arrived at the scene in Footscray at 5am on Thursday and called in assistance from airport crews who have trucks with the capacity to spray foam from 80 metres.

The situation was declared under control by the Melbourne Fire Brigade (MFB) just before 10pm on Thursday.

A steel recycling company was in the process of moving into the tin and asbestos warehouse which housed aerosols and over 40 drums containing grease, oil and acetone residues that have fuelled the flames.

With toxic smoke spewing over Melbourne's west, 19 schools and 38 childcare centres in the affected areas were closed on Thursday.

Acting MFB chief officer Greg Leach told a community meeting that the fire-fighting effort was being hampered because the warehouse was divided in two by shipping containers.

"As much as we'd like to knock this fire down overnight, we've got days and days of work here," Mr Leach told the meeting.

With the asbestos roof of the building collapsing, firefighters will have to go into the wreck when it's deemed safe to take it apart and cool the smouldering mess below.

"That will take time," Mr Leach said. "It's dirty work, but it's got to be done."

Thursday's cold weather meant the hot smoke plume could rise high above residents, minimising damage to air quality.

"While we had this toxic, dark, acrid, black rolling plume that was heading over the suburbs, at ground level the air quality was relatively unchanged," Mr Leach said.

It is not known exactly how the fire started or what the damage bill will be.

An investigation will take place to determine the cause of the fire, how the firefighting operation was handled, the integrity of the building and the safety of the materials inside.

The Environmental Protection Authority is monitoring air quality and run-off into waterways.

AAP

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