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Delivering on Recommendation 9.1 from the Victorian Government’s response to the EPA Inquiry
Over the weekend of 17–18 March 2018, four fires burnt through approximately 15,000 hectares in Victoria’s south‑west.
A total of 26 houses are believed to have been lost, as well as 83 sheds and about 8,000 hectares of pasture. These fires burnt into peat beds near Terang, Camperdown and Cobden resulting in high levels of volatile organic compounds, PM2.5 and carbon monoxide.
Between 17 March and 7 May, 140 EPA staff supported the emergency response at incident, regional and state levels for a period of 52 days – drawing on our scientific expertise to provide timely advice about environmental and human health impacts.
This expertise took many forms including more than 60 air quality reports, over 30 water samples and formal scientific/technical advice related to issues such as environmental impacts from the use of firefighting foam, issues relating to acid-sulfate soils and cleanup and waste management advice in relation to asbestos, animal burial and spoilt milk.
EPA was also prompt in deploying a staged response of incident air monitoring equipment in partnership with the Victoria State Emergency Service (VICSES) with the first piece of monitoring set up within 24 hours. Data from this equipment was streamed onto EPA’s AirWatch website, allowing community members to check hourly air quality readings for their area.
In addition to a wide range of portable air monitoring devices at 10 separate locations over the incident, we debuted our large air monitoring laboratory (AirLab) in the town of Cobden. The AirLab provided high-quality air monitoring data that informed decision-making and advice on public health. This AirLab is the first of its kind and specifically designed for prolonged air pollution incidents within Victoria.
EPA staff have completed EM training as of 30 June 2018
VIC SES volunteers completed EPA training modules, complementing the 250 volunteers that have already completed face-to-face training
How EPA supports emergency response during air pollution incidents
Large bushfires, chemical spills and industrial fires can all impact on air quality and may pose a threat to human health. Emergency response agencies, such as the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB), are usually the first to attend these types of incidents. EPA supports emergency services during major air pollution events by deploying incident air monitoring equipment when requested, and also by monitoring and assessing air quality and communicating this information to the Incident Controller, emergency services agencies, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and to the community via EPA AirWatch.
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more about EPA’s response process.
EPA’s emergency response to the south-west fires
EPA staff supported the emergency response over 52 days
air quality reports, and more than 30 water samples
Formal scientific and technical pieces of advice related to several issues were provided
Where air monitoring devices were deployed during the fires
= Air monitoring device location
The south-west fires was EPA's largest deployment of mobile air monitoring equipment to date. 140 EPA staff supported the emergency response for a period of 52 days.
The south-west fires produced carbon monoxide, which required air monitoring units in multiple locations to ensure public health safety.
Mobile air monitoring units were located in 10 different locations throughout the south-west.
Tackling local pollution and waste issues
Supporting industry to comply
Page last updated on 28 May 2019