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Shopping Centre Fire, Fairfield

Published: 22nd May 2006

Shortly after 7 pm on Thursday 18 May 2006, the NSW Fire Brigades received a fire alarm to a shopping centre in Fairfield in Sydney’s south west. Triple zero calls received at the time indicated a fire in a department store at the complex. Two fire brigade units were immediately responded.

Firefighters were on the scene minutes later to report a fire involving packaged goods in a storage area at the rear of the store. Approximately 100 shoppers and staff had evacuated after being alerted to the fire by the fire alarms. Fire crews put on air cylinders to conduct a search and soon established that everyone had escaped unharmed from the heavily smoke-logged premises. Although the store’s sprinkler system had operated to contain the fire, firefighters had to ensure the fire was completely extinguished. Within about twenty minutes the fire was out and the sprinkler system was turned off. Fire damage was confined to the storage area. Six people were treated at the scene by Ambulance officers for minor smoke inhalation injuries.

It was discovered that the fire involved swimming pool chlorine which was now reacting with the water from the sprinkler system to produce hazardous vapours. Firefighters evacuated another 200 people from the rest of the shopping centre. Throughout the remainder of the night and well into the next morning firefighters wearing air cylinders and protective clothing worked to safely remove the chlorine from the store and clean up the area.

A total of 40 firefighters from eight brigades and the Hazardous Materials Unit were committed to the operation. Crews worked in rotation removing the chlorine until 8 am. The air quality in the shopping centre was constantly checked to determine when readings indicated safe levels.

Once the area was declared safe responsibility was handed to Police who declared a crime scene.