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Katherine Waste Management Facility Fire

posted 30-May-2018

Katherine Waste Management Facility Fire

Yesterday morning at sunrise, Council staff found the Waste Management Facility (the Tip) on fire. The prevailing winds were pushing the smoke westward, away from town. Council and the Fire Brigade have been working hard to put the fire out as soon as possible. After working all day and night, this morning a significant reduction of the active fire was achieved.

Due to changing weather conditions late last night, some residents may have been impacted by the smoke from the fire. Smoke can cause amongst other symptoms, a burning feeling in your eyes and throat irritation. We’ve attached advice from the Department of Health below. People in affected areas are advised to close their doors and windows and avoid the fumes by staying inside.

Landfills are very prone to fire. Decomposition of waste generates a lot of heat which can cause the waste in landfills to spontaneously catch on fire. These fires not only happen on the surface, but can also start under the surface. A fire that might then seem small in the beginning can quickly grow beneath the surface to a large and hard to fight fire. Although we are doing everything we can to fight this fire in the smallest timeframe possible, we hope you understand that we also need to consider the safety of our staff. We expect that the active fire will be completely smothered by the end of the day. Smoke is likely to continue to be produced, but in smaller quantities. In the meantime, Council is looking to open a new area for commercial users to dispose of waste.

The Northern Territory Environmental Protection Agency (NT EPA) has been advised of the incident and the Department of Health has provided us the following information:

Smoke can impact human health, from itchy or burning eyes, throat irritation and runny nose, to more serious conditions such as bronchitis and asthma and can also aggravate existing heart and lung conditions, including chronic bronchitis, emphysema and asthma. Symptoms from exposure can occur for several days after smoke is inhaled, so people with these conditions need to be vigilant with their treatment programs.

If symptoms do not settle down, those affected should seek medical advice. The following precautions might also help:

  • Staying indoors with doors and windows closed
  • Air-conditioning can improve the quality of the air you breathe (make sure intake is switched to recirculate)
  • Avoid vigorous exercise (especially younger children and the elderly or if you have a respiratory condition   such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes)
  • If you are an asthmatic or have a respiratory or heart condition and you develop symptoms such as shortness of breath, cough, wheeze or chest pain, then you should rest and follow your prescribed treatment plan. Always try to keep on hand at least a week’s supply of medications
  • If symptoms do not settle, you should seek medical advice. People on home oxygen treatment should continue as prescribed, if breathlessness worsens, contact your doctor.”

For further information regarding the environment, safety and risks regarding landfill fires please contact the NT EPA on 08 8924 4218 or visit their website: .

Residents seeking further information in relation to the incident can contact Council on 08 8972 5500.