Firefighters take turns at the mine

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Mine fire: Somerville firefighters Dave O’Brien, left, and Jake Sanders take a break from firefighting in the open cut coal mine next to the Hazelwood powers station at Morwell.

Mine fire: Somerville firefighters Dave O’Brien, left, and Jake Sanders take a break from firefighting in the open cut coal mine next to the Hazelwood powers station at Morwell.

ABOUT 2000 CFA volunteers from the Mornington Peninsula have been battling the open cut coal fire at Morwell.

As the fire enters its fourth week, buses are leaving Moorooduc twice daily taking members of Peninsula and Western Port CFA groups to 12-hour shifts at the fire, which is forcing the evacuation of people from smoke-affected parts of Morwell.

Firefighters were at first affected by carbon monoxide from the fire, but smoke and particles have now spread from the open cut to the town.

The state government and health authorities have been criticised for not acting soon enough to issue health warnings or help take vulnerable residents to safety.

Somerville firefighter Dave O’Brien described the scene confronting the firefighters at the mine as “daunting”.

“The fire is deep seated within thousands of metres of brown coal embankments, and it requires a lot of time and effort to extinguish each section,” he said.

“The bare, smoking landscape resembles what I imagine Hell would look like.”

Mr O’Brien said firefighters were being monitored for exposure to noxious gases.

In the weeks leading up to being deployed to Morwell, volunteers from the peninsula were helping out with fires in the Grampians as well as at Orbost and Kilmore.

On Monday a CFA spokeperson said the Morwell fire was expected to burn for at least another 10 days. Foam and water was being used to extinguish the blaze.

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