Impact of the 2014 Hazelwood Mine Fire

The Hazelwood mine fire that began on 9 February 2014 was the largest and longest running mine fire in the history of the Latrobe Valley. The impact of the Hazelwood mine fire on the Latrobe Valley community has been significant. The fire burned for 45 days and for much of that time sent smoke and ash over the town of Morwell and surrounding areas.

As significant as the mine fire was, it could have been much worse. The weather conditions on 9 February 2014 could have been more extreme, with lower humidity levels. Had the wind not changed direction at the time that it did on 9 February 2014, a large firefront may have been propelled directly into the mine. If the township of Morwell was more densely populated, or had the fire burned for longer, adverse health effects could have been significantly worse.

People have been affected by the Hazelwood mine fire in many ways. First and foremost, the community’s health has been adversely affected. Many people have been adversely financially affected for reasons including medical costs, veterinary costs, time taken off work, relocation from their homes, cleaning their homes and businesses and possible decreases in property value. A number of local businesses experienced a downturn.

The community has suffered stress, anxiety, anger and frustration. It is important to recognise that the impact of the Hazelwood mine fire felt by the community is ongoing and is different for each individual.

Volunteers who responded to the Hazelwood mine fire, including volunteer firefighters and other fire service personnel, local hospital and other healthcare staff, not-for-profit and community based organisations, and many individuals in the local community, worked tirelessly and went above and beyond what was expected of them throughout the course of this event.

The following people and organisations are commended for their efforts:

  • The Country Fire Authority (CFA), the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB), the Department of Environment and Primary Industries, the State Emergency Service (SES), GDF Suez fire crews, and fire crews from Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and New Zealand.
  • Ambulance Victoria, Victoria Police, and the Latrobe City Council for coordinating a mass door knock of the 6,400 homes located in Morwell. The door knock was possible because of a large volunteer effort from a range of people and organisations including 33 other Victorian Councils (as far away as Ararat), the CFA, the MFB and the Red Cross.
  • Latrobe City Council, with the support of the State and Commonwealth governments, for establishing a Community Information and Recovery Centre in Morwell.
  • Not-for-profit organisations for providing meals, accommodation and services to firefighters and for supporting the community, fire services and health workers.
  • Local community organisations, such as the Morwell Neighbourhood House, Ramahyuck District Aboriginal Corporation, Asbestos Council of Victoria and Gippsland Asbestos Related Diseases Support Inc., and other community organisations for providing support to the community throughout the mine fire.
  • ABC local radio, local commercial radio and Voices of the Valley for assistance with communications.
  • The residents of Morwell and surrounding towns who took the initiative to check on and support their neighbours and vulnerable people in their communities.