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25/03/11 - Chemical fire at Kurnell

Published: 25th March 2011

At 0552 on Friday 25 March 2011 crews from both Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW)and the Rural Fire Service (RFS) responded to the first reports of a chemical fire burning within a building on Cook Street, Kurnell. The crew from FRNSW Cronulla were on scene within seven and a half minutes and reported large volumes of smoke from a 40 by 40 metre building of three levels and immediately called for additional support. Crews quickly became aware that over 1,000 litres of Hydrogen Peroxide was involved and that the water could not be used in a direct attack onto the fire.

The fire quickly spread to other products stored within the building including bulk storage of acids and corrosives. All efforts were directed to the structure around the fire to prevent it from spreading to adjoining premises and fifteen additional fire crews were responded. Due to the smoke plume police were advised to establish an 800 metre exclusion zone around the site and several hundred householders were awoken and relocated. Captain Cook Drive was closed to all traffic causing severe traffic disruption throughout the southern suburbs for most of the day. Aerial appliances were utilised in an attempt to contain the fire and RFS crews assisted in water relays throughout the day. Hazmat crews played a vital role in air sampling and containing contaminated water run off. FireAir1 was deployed as an aerial observation post and local council resources were required to provide large quantities of sand to contain the run off from the site.

Foam was used to finally extinguish the bulk of the fire by Friday night with the last of evacuated residents being allowed to return to their homes at 1800hrs. A massive clean up operation of contaminated water continued throughout the weekend and the site was not declared safe until Monday afternoon. Investigations into the cause of the fire are currently being conducted by the RFS and Workcover. Fortunately no injuries were advised. Throughout the lengthy four day operation numerous crews from across the Sydney area attended the incident.