Two hurt in Colac mill fire

Colac and district firefighters used breathing apparatus to fight a fire in a shed at AKD Irrewarra.

Colac and district firefighters used breathing apparatus to fight a fire in a shed at AKD Irrewarra.

POLICE and the Country Fire Authority are investigating the cause of a blaze which injured two people at AKD’s Irrewarra sawmill.

Paramedics transported two AKD employees to Colac Hospital with injuries suffered in the firefight.

Nearly 20 fire trucks and appliances battled the blaze for about three hours in a shed at the Princes Highway factory.

AKD chief executive officer Shane Vicary said the two male employees returned to the mill the same night, one suffered a minor burn and the other minor cuts.

“It was an exceptional effort from the AKD employees, and the response from the CFA was once again exceptional,” Mr Vicary said.

“It’s a storage shed, a long way away from where our operations are; we’re pretty grateful it wasn’t anywhere near our plant,” he said.

Irrewarra Fire Brigade captain John Martin said firefighters faced thick black smoke when they arrived at the scene.

“We knew it housed timber of some kind, we had to try to ascertain from AKD employees what was in there; there were large packs of timber, spare machinery parts for the sawmill and pallets of bagged wood shavings,” Mr Martin said.

He said firefighters entered the building with breathing apparatus and used a forklift to get to the seat of the fire.

Mr Martin said the fire caused minimal damage to the shed and its structure.

“It was that laminated timber beams that saved the day, if it was steel it would have buckled under the radiant heat,” Mr Martin said.

“The fire was relatively small in comparison to the size of the building,” he said.

Firefighters from Beeac, Irrewarra, Colac, Yeo, Warrion, Birregurra, Barongarook, Cororooke, Yeodene as well as Corio and Geelong fought the fire.

CFA operations officer Michael Crutchfield credited the work of firefighters and AKD staff for preventing the spread of fire.

“It was a really good save, on behalf of the AKD groups who put water on it and the CFA personnel who got onto it quickly,” he said.

Mr Vicary said the fire damaged filters for its machinery and the damage bill would range between $20,000 and $25,000.

He described the timber loss from the fire as “negligible”.

“We’re putting it down to the extremely dry conditions, we’re just working our way through what the potential causes would have been,” he said.

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