Firefighters battle toxic tip blaze
AS ACRID, toxic smoke billowed from the plastic recycling shed in the early hours of Sunday, fire fighters from Rural Fire Service and Fire & Rescue NSW joined forces to battle the blaze.
The structure fire occurred on a horror weekend for Northern Rivers fire fighters as gusty winds fanned flames and a bushfire emergency declared in the Lismore, Kyogle and Richmond Valley Shires.
Fire & Rescue Lismore station officer David Mooney said his crew arrived at the Lismore Recycling & Recovery Centre at Wyrallah Rd, East Lismore, to see smoke pouring out of the building.
"We were first on scene but had to wait a few minutes for security to open the gates at this is in a RFS area and we did not have keys," he said.
"But the fire was deep-seated and had been going for a long time and a few minutes was not going to make a difference."
The fire was under control by late Sunday afternoon but crews were called again early Monday morning to a report it had flared up.
Mr Mooney said crews attended from Lismore, Goonellabah, Brunswick Heads, Wyrallah, Alphaville, Ballina, Coraki and Casino to combat the fire in the shed which is around 100m long.
He said smoke was rolling across the road into the facility, making visibility difficult , although crews could see the incident burning as they came down Skyline Rd.
"The acrid black smoke you could smell it was not mulch burning and large volumes of black toxic smoke were coming from the plastic recycle area," he said.
"We spoke to a council officer he said there was 100 tonnes of recycled plastics inside that area."
Mr Mooney said the two fire fighting organisations worked in tandem to bring the incident under control with assistance from council who supplied bulk water via tankers to ensure there was enough to maintain a continuous supply to blanket the burning material.
"Crews wearing breathing apparatus entered the shed, everyone in the vicinity was wearing the appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment)," he said.
"A council worker operated an excavator which separated burning materials so we managed to isolate those on fire and once we set the water up we were rotating two BA firefighters in at a time with lines (fire hoses) to extinguish the stuff still burning."
Mr Mooney said it was a "long, hard, dirty night."
"Our crews were there for eight hours overnight before being relived in the morning," he said.
"With a deep-seated plastics fire you are in the long haul."
On Monday morning Lismore F&R Station Officer Fraser Hindry said the Goonellabah Hazmat crew was also in attendance.
"Our crews were continually in BA and hosing down the materials, it was a protracted incident, a muddy, filthy and tough gig the crews did well," he said.
"I'm very proud of our crews and council helped us out."
Mr Hindry said mulch piles beside the recycling shed may had also been affected.
"Crews worked well into the morning to being under control," he said.
"By late Sunday afternoon the fire was contained, but it flared up again this morning."
RFS Inspector Daniel Ainsworth said all fires including the incident at Lismore will be investigated.
"There was very good work between the two fire services and the incident was particularly difficult because of the wind, making the fire problematic," he said.
"Multiple piles at the rear of the structure were also on fire."
Lismore mayor Isaac Smith said Lismore tip was closed and will remain so for a short while the incident was assessed.
"It doesn't appear to be suspicious at this stage," he said.
"I want to pass on my thanks to council staff who acted quickly and to our wonderful emergency services including RFS and F&R who rushed to scene."
The council was expected to make a formal statement about the incident this morning.
Meanwhile, Richmond Police District Inspector Chad Deegenaars said $1m worth of pine trees at a plantation south of Kyogle was under investigation.
He said the fire the vicinity of Clearfield Rd, Rappville, had burnt more than 1880ha and was being controlled.
"This fire is subject to further police enquires," he said.
According to the RFS, the northern most part of fire was burning near Myrtle Creek Rd and Clearfield Rd and had reached Summerland Way to the east.
Overnight, crews conducted backburning operations, particularly in the area near Summerland Way and today crews will continue to focus on containing the fire in this area.
Crews will continue to build and strengthen containment lines in an effort to control the fire.
Firefighters were working with a number of property owners in the area.
Summerland Way was closed between Casino and Grafton.
The train line between Sydney and Brisbane was currently closed between Rappville and Lawrence Rd.