Firefighters at the scene of a fire in Alstonville Industrial Estate.
Firefighters at the scene of a fire in Alstonville Industrial Estate. Marc Stapelberg

Oil fire extinguished, police begin investigation

Update 10.26am: THE fire at the macadamia oil factory has been extinguished.

A spokeswoman from Fire & Rescue NSW said crews started to wrap up around 6pm last night.

A Fire & Rescue investigation unit went through the site yesterday and has since handed their findings over to police.

The cause and origin of the fire is now a police investigation.
 

Update Tuesday 3.47pm: HEAVY machinery is now being used to extinguish the fire in the Alstonville Industrial Estate.

Duty Commander Northern Rivers Fire and Rescue Gavin Muller said teams are using an excavator to demolish parts of the building.

"(It's) assisting us by removing all the collapsed parts of the structure to allow access to deep seeded parts of the fire," Commander Muller said.

Commander Muller said the oil based fire they had yesterday has been fully extinguished, however they are still working to attack all the burning pockets.

"We are still monitoring all the run offs and containing any of the oil coming out with the water from the extinguishment of the fire," he said.

"It's a little bit complex due to we don't know how much more deep seated fire there is."

He anticipates the incident to be completed within the next six hours.

"It could take six hours it could take 8 to 10 hours."

"Once the fire is fully extinguished, further lines of enquiry will be undertaken."

"We have had the Fire and Rescue investigation and Police forensic investigation here today, they have done their initial assessment."

Richmond Police District Sargent Matt Johnson said the Alstonville fire is still a crime scene.

"Crime scene police, the forensic investigators are on scene," he said.

"The cause of the fire is still under investigation and the coroner has been informed and a report will be forwarded to them as they receive information about all significant fires."

Sgt Johnson said police are now looking at the structure of the Macadamia oil building.

"What we are looking at now is destroying part of the structure so Fire & Rescue can extinguish the fire," he said.

 

Update 11.17pm: FIREFIGHTERS at the macadamia factory fire yesterday went through around 200 breathing apparatus cylinders fighting the blaze.

Duty Commander Northern Rivers Fire and Rescue Gavin Muller said 50 firefighters worked tirelessly into the night trying to get the inferno under control.

"We had some challenging conditions yesterday, it was very hot and humid and then we had that storm in the afternoon," Commander Muller said.

"We wear our specialised breathing apparatus equipment and we also do atmospheric monoritoring just to ensure any of the toxic plume, if there is harmful pieces in the smoke or a harmful environment for the community that's why we advised health there may be a problem and then they can take the according steps." 

It wasn't until 3am this morning that Fire and Rescue NSW scaled back the amount of resources used.

"Overnight we maintained 10 firefighters and here today I have 14 firefighters on site," Commander Muller said.

"We still have some deep seeded fire in the macadamia husk in the vacinty of the structural collapse.

"This has made things quite challenging for firefighters to get to these deep seeded fire."

Firefighting crews used a combination of hand lines and fixed ground monitors in an attempt to extinguish the fire yesterday.

"(These) are unmaned water cannons from external to the building which is a lot safer for the firefighters because we did have structural collapse and numerous gas cyclinders within the building that we had to be aware of," Commander Muller said.

Today's operations to be completed by Fire and Rescue will be to assess and contain the run off, ensure there is no environmental damage and put out the pockets of fire in the factory. 

"We will also have our specialised fire investigator from Sydney along with police crime scene to investigate the cause and origin of the fire," Commander Muller said.

"As with all fires the cause and origin is currently under investigation and once that investigation has been carried out of course a determination will be made."
 

 

 

Update Tuesday 8.14am: RICHMOND Police District Inspector Nicole Bruce said officers have maintained a presence at the Macadamia factory in Alstonville overnight to preserve the integrity of the scene.

Insp Bruce said a police fire investigator will work with their emergency services colleagues.

"We have a police guard at the Alstonville fire site, it is still a crime scene," she said.

"A Fire and Rescue investigation team have flown up from Sydney and an investigator from here will be present as this is under our jurisdiction."

Insp Bruce said there was still an excavator at  the site as there is a danger of the roof collapsing.


Update 4.48pm: FIREFIGHTING crews are now in defensive mode attempting to protect the two silos next to the burning building.

A spokeswoman from Fire & Rescue NSW said the oil in the factory was being allowed to burn out, while fire fighters worked hard to contain the water and oil within its premises.

An excavator is also on scene to start pulling the building apart to allow firefighters to extinguish, when it is safer to do so.

There are now 11 crews on site, including Hazmat teams from Goonellabah, Tweed Heads and Grafton.

The spokeswoman said at this stage there is nothing to suggest that crews and police are treating the fire as suspicious.

Two firefighters have been treated for heat exhaustion, with one being transported to Lismore Base Hospital at 2pm today.

 

Update 2.00pm: TEN firefighting crews and a speciality hazardous material unit are working together to control the blaze at the macadamia oil factory.

Duty commander Northern Rivers Fire and Rescue Gavin Muller said upon arrival earlier today, crews worked quickly to stop the spreading of the fire to two adjoining silos on one side of the shed.

However, crews are now facing some difficulty with low water pressures and teams are currently working hard to relay water to extinguish the fire.

"We have moves in place to stop any environmental damage and we are also monitoring the smoke plume for the surrounding houses," Commander Muller said.

At this stage Commander Muller believes it will take them up to 6 hours to extinguish the fire

"Within the building we do have some significant hazards," he said.

"We do have some LPG cylinders, we do have some Acetylene cylinders, so we have to be very mindful of the firefighters safety and welfare and the community with this type of fire."

Earlier on, a firefighter was seen by paramedics and treated for heat exposure.

"It's just precautionary at this stage, all the firefighters will be assessed by ambulance crews just to ensure they are fit and healthy to keep conducting their firefighting duties," Commander Muller said.

Crews are being regularly rotated out to ensure their wellbeing.

"The crews have done a fantastic job in the high heat and humidity."

There is still no insight to what the cause or origin could be.

"It is currently under investigation and once we have extinguished the fire those investigations will be undertaken."

 

Fire at Macadamia Australia as viewed passing on the road.
Fire at Macadamia Australia as viewed passing on the road. Greg Hodgson

Update 1.28pm: POLICE say it could be a number of hours before the fire that broke out on Hugh Street is contained.

Richmond Police District Inspector Nicole Bruce said at this stage the Lismore fire brigade is still attempting to contain the fire.

"There is a large amount of macadamia oil inside which is burning and will be burning for several hours," Insp Bruce said.

"Luckily it is an isolated building and it doesn't look like it is spreading and no one was in the premises at the time of the fire."

At the moment the street is closed off and will be for awhile.

Insp Bruce said Police will be conducting a joint investigation with the fire brigade once the fire is out.

"Once the fire finishes we will get in our forensic experts to have a look and conduct a joint investigation with the fire brigade," she said

"We will have to wait until at lease the scene is cold so probably nothing will happen until tomorrow."

 

Update 12.24pm: THE manager of Macadamia Oils of Australia, Darren Burton, said fortunately no one was in the building at the time the fire broke out as they were operating out of their Ballina premises at the time.

He said he was devastated by the fire, but was grateful no one was in the building.

He said they received calls from neighbours to tell them the alarms were going off and the fire brigade had been called.

The manager said his early thoughts were it may have been electrical as they weren't working at the premises at the time.

The fire was at the rear of the building which was a storage area containing oil.

He said given the volatility of the oil it would be hard to combat, but they were doing the best they could.

 

Update 12.04pm: A LARGE shed is on fire at the Alstonville industrial estate, with a heavy load of macadamia oil alight.

The fire is at Macadamia Australia at Hugh Street in the Alstonville Industrial Estate. It is believed the building has partially collapsed.

NSW Fire Communications said fire is active in three sectors of the building - in two silos measuring 2 x 4 metres, and is expanding.

A firefighter has been attended to by ambulance officers, suffering from heat exposure.

Police, ambulance, Hazmat, crews from Lismore, Alstonville, Goonellabah, and Ballina are at the scene, with crew from NSW Fire and Rescue Bangalow and a tanker from Casino on its way. Crews from RFS are also on scene.

Exclusion zones are in place around the fire.

Dark smoke coming from the industrial estate at Alstonville.
Dark smoke coming from the industrial estate at Alstonville. Rebecca Lollback

 

Original 12.00pm: EMERGENCY services are responding to reports of a structure fire at Hugh Street, Alstonville Industrial Estate.

NSW Fire and Rescue and Hazmat are on their way.


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