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.