A ferocious chemical fire in the Canberra suburb of Mitchell has finally been brought under control, after the blaze woke many North Canberra residents yesterday with a series of huge explosions and fireballs. The fire was just down the road from the studios of 2CC and 2CA, an area that was locked down for much of the morning.
2CC Program Director Peter Davidson describes how the station coped with such a huge crisis on its doorstep:
Our studios are 250 metres away from the fire which is in the exclusion zone. No one was being granted access to Mitchell early this morning. At 5am it still appeared that we would not be able to go to air on both our stations.
2CC Breakfast Announcer Mark Parton and his Producer Jorian Gardner managed to get to the studios just in time and they took over on-air just before 5.30am. Greg Robson was not so lucky and was unable to get past the police blockades, so 2CC was broadcast on 2CA till after 10am when more staff were allowed into the no-go zone.
Regardless of not being able to access the station, all staff from 2CA and 2CC were on deck filing reports from around town back to Mark Parton.
2CA returned to it’s own programming soon after 10am, but 2CC has remained local all day with myself and Mike Welsh till 6pm. We dropped the Ray Hadley, Andrew Moore and Chris Smith shows, which come from 2GB as we continued with updates on the situation, road reports and reports from callers all over Canberra and surrounds who could see the flames (which were over 200 meters into the air – no exaggeration).
We had police escorts to get us to the studio complex!
All afternoon we have been able to hear small explosions and the smoke continues to been seen from our studios. The winds have been erratic all day and the plume has spread to most of the north and inner north of Canberra.
The exclusion zone will remain in place all weekend in Mitchell and arrangements have been made for staff to get to the station.
The Canberra Times reported:
The fire caused emergency services to raise fears of toxic smoke plumes across the area. Fire crews are continuing to monitor the smoke for any toxic substances, which authorities say could have a similar effect to mustard gas. The fire started at the Energy Services Invironmental factory in Dacre Street, Mitchell. The company works with oil from electricity transformers, which is stored on the site and contains the dangerous chemical PCB.
ABC ABC666’s Julian Abbot posts below, the ABC also had extended coverage of the fire: “666 ABC Canberra went to air with half hour updates from 2.30am. Breakfast with Ross Solly started at 0400.. Early AM and AM were dropped for coverage.”