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Aerosol Factory Fire at Mulgrave

Published: 22nd June 2006

At 1.45pm on 19 June 2006 the NSW Fire Brigades (NSWFB) received many triple zero calls reporting a factory on fire in Hudson Place, Mulgrave in northwest Sydney.

Two NSWFB and two Rural Fire Service (RFS) units were initially responded. When fire crews arrived they found the factory well-alight, and with neighbouring property and a large tank holding flammable liquid also under threat. Fearing the fire would spread, firefighters and police quickly evacuated the building as well as adjacent factories.

Firefighters then attacked the fire seeking to contain it. However, fuelled by flammable liquids such as paints and thinners, the fire spread rapidly, generating intense heat and producing a huge column of smoke visible across the inner city.

Further fire crews responded to provide extra resources, with 100 firefighters from 14 NSWFB and six RFS units ultimately involved in fighting the fire. A special foam-carrying fire truck from the RAAF Richmond Air Base was also called in to extinguish flammable liquids burning inside the building. The NSWFB Commissioner Greg Mullins attended to oversee operations.

The factory was used for the production and storage of aerosol spray paint, and was heavily stocked at the time of the fire. LPG cylinders and drums of paint and thinners were also stored within the building. Many of these exploded during the course of the fire, generating a fireball effect within the smoke plume. Numerous aerosol cans also exploded, creating a projectile hazard for firefighters and littering the surrounding area with burnt cans.

To contain the fire and protect nearby buildings, fire crews positioned large diameter hoses in an effort to cut the fire off. Ladder trucks were also set up to deliver elevated water streams onto the fire. A nearby bulk flammable liquid tank was kept cool during the firefighting operations.

The intense heat weakened the factory’s concrete structure. The front wall of the building threatened to topple onto the tank but fortunately both the wall and the tank remained intact throughout the fire. To enable firefighters to operate safely, a collapse zone was established around the building.

To ensure enough water for firefighting, several NSWFB and RFS fire trucks were connected in series, pumping water to the burning factory.

The NSWFB’s Hazardous Materials (HazMat) Unit dammed the water running from the fire as this water was contaminated by substances burning within the building. Staff from the NSW Department of Environment and Conservation and the local council assisted HazMat with this task. This operation successfully contained the water to the area around the site, ready for collection by waste contractors.

When night fell bringing cooler temperatures, the smoke generated by the fire settled over a large area. As a precaution, fire officers advised local residents to remain indoors for the evening.

Although it took only an hour and a half to contain the fire, it was four hours before it was brought under control. The efforts of firefighters proved effective in containing the fire to the building of origin and successfully protecting all surrounding property. The paint factory, however, was extensively damaged. Due to structural damage making access difficult, small fires continued to burn sluggishly for two days. Fire crews continued firefighting duties for two days while the HazMat unit contained and removed all the waste water.

NSWFB Fire Investigators and the Police are currently investigating the cause of the fire.