Morwell, Victoria, February 2014

Bushfire - Hazelwood open cut mine fire, Morwell

Quick Statistics

20 Injured

The Hazelwood open cut mine fire began on 9 February 2014, during a period of severe fire weather. It was started by a nearby grassfire and was one of 70 blazes across the state during this time. The fire continued burning for four weeks, with the Victorian Country Fire Authority (CFA) declaring it under control on 19 February 2014 and safe on 25 March 2014.

The fire released large amounts of smoke and ash that settled on the adjacent township of Morwell. Twenty firefighters were treated for smoke inhalation and there were complaints of severe health problems over the duration of the fire. Among the reported health impacts were headaches; nausea; shortness of breath; sore throats; diarrhoea; nose bleeds; sore eyes; chest pain; and fatigue. Many schools and childcare centres in Morwell closed and relocated students during the fire.

The Environment Protection Authority and the Department of Health were the key agencies responsible for providing the community with information about smoke and ash produced by the mine fire and possible adverse health effects. The Victorian Government provided health checks and distributed face masks to residents. On 28 February, the Victorian Chief Health Officer advised that the elderly, unwell, children and pregnant women should temporarily leave South Morwell. Government grants of up to $1250 were made available to assist with their temporary relocation.

The Hazelwood mine fire was particularly difficult to control due to the burning coal seam, and advice was sought from local and international experts in the field. More than 7000 firefighters from the CFA, interstate agencies and the mine owners were deployed over the 45 days. More than 500 firefighters battled the fire at any one time, using water and foam to cool the burning coal.

On 18 March 2014 the Victorian Government announced financial assistance for the clean up following the Hazelwood fire.

The Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry estimated the total damages to exceed $100 million.


Information sources

ABC AM, ‘Vic EPA confirms toxic fumes as Morwell residents leave town,’ 24 February 2014, website viewed 23 February 2014

ABC AM, ‘Coal mine smoke drives primary school students out of classrooms,’ 20 February 2014, website viewed 20 February 2014

ABC News, ‘Coal mine fires: Health centre opens after Morwell residents complain of breathing difficulties,’ 21 February 2014, website viewed 21 February 2014

ABC News, ‘New concerns about stability of Hazelwood mine as local continue to endure smoke, ash misery,’ website viewed 26 February 2014

ABC News, ‘Evacuation plan ready as officials concede Morwell mine fire could burn for months,’ 26 February 2014, website viewed 26 February 2014

ABC News, ‘Hazelwood mine fire now controlled after burning for a month,’ 11 March 2014, website viewed 11 March 2014

ABC News, ‘Mine fire contained but family faces long wait before they can return to Morwell South,’ 13 March 2014, website viewed 13 March 2014

ABC The World Today, ‘Firefighters hospitalised, people told to stay inside, as fire rages through open cut mine,’ 17 March 2014, website viewed 17 February 2014

Country Fire Authority, ‘Mine Fire Q&As,’ 28 February 2014,  website viewed 25 March 2014

Country Fire Authority, ‘Update for emergency services on Hazelwood open cut mine fire,’ 27 February 2014, website viewed 22 April 2014

EPA Victoria, ‘Heavy smoke impacts across Morwell throughout the weekend,’ 22 February 2014, website viewed 22 April 2014

EPA Victoria, ‘High level Hazelwood open cut mine fire smoke advisory,’ 2 March 2014, website viewed 22 April 2014

Emergency Relief and Recovery Victoria, ‘Hazelwood mine for update from the Incident Control Centre,’ 21 March 2014, website viewed 22 April 2014

Latrobe Valley Express, 'Sweeping the Streets,' March 31 2014, website viewed 1 April 2014

Teague B, Catford J and Petering S, Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry, September 2014, website viewed 4 September 2014

The Age, ‘Morwell residents suffer as coal mine fire burns,’ 25 February 2014, website viewed 25 February 2014

The Age, ‘Minister rejects fire health risk,’ 24 February 2014, website viewed 24 February 2014

The Age, ‘Health chief on Morwell smoke: I would rather move away,’ 25 February 2014, website viewed 25 February 2014

The Age, ‘Hazelwood mine fire community briefings end soon,’ 15 April 2014, website viewed 22 April 2014

The Australian, ‘Concerns for firefighters at Hazelwood blaze,’ 19 February 2014, 19 February 2014, website viewed 19 February 2014

The Australian, ‘Fire threatening Vic power assets,’10 February 2014,  website viewed 10 February 2014

The Canberra Times, ‘More help for Vic mine help,’ 26 February 2014, website viewed 26 February 2014