Fireman called to Casino stockfeed mill
By JANE GARDNER
FIREFIGHTERS braced for the worst last night as a tense situation unfolded at the Riverina Stockfeeds mill in Casino.
Sparks from a welder's torch had set one of the silos smoking earlier in the day, prompting the evacuation of all workers from the Reynolds Road site at about 4.40pm.
Four fire crews, a hazardous materials team, high ranking firefighters and a helicopter in Sydney sat in wait as firefighters cautiously inspected the 700 tonne silo in question with high-tech heat seeking equipment.
Station officer Brian Aubusson said the situation was extremely volatile.
"These are very dangerous situations, with the possibility of a dust explosion," he said.
"We have people on the inside right now with thermal lasers and thermal imaging cameras looking for any hot spots in the hoppers and ducting system."
The Fire Air One helicopter in Sydney was on standby to fly expert scientists up if the carbon dioxide readings indicated it might potentially blow up. Meanwhile, workers arriving for the night shift stood outside the gates and watched, unable to enter the site.
Mr Aubusson said the combination of dust, oxygen and sparks were perfect conditions for a devastating detonation.
"An explosion would be massive," he said. "We are just following safety guidelines and gathering information to decide how we will proceed."
After a briefing, the firefighters identified two silos as potential dangers. The first, which was reported to be smouldering earlier in the day, contained 30 tonnes of grain. The second was a silo containing wheat, which firefighters emptied in to containers at 7.45pm.
A maintenance worker, Neil Riethe, told The Northern Star he and his apprentice had been welding silo G3 when they noticed smoke coming from the hopper, or funnel, of the silo.
"We informed our superiors straight away and dumped the grain," he said.