Fire Contained, Water Contaminated After Massive Chemical Explosion in Melbourne Factory

Authorities provided an update on a major explosion and subsequent fire at a factory in Melbourne’s western region on Wednesday. While the blaze has been controlled, the incident has led to chemical contamination of a nearby creek.

Emergency services were dispatched to Swann Drive in Derrimut at around 11:20 AM local time on Wednesday, responding to a significant fire ignited by a chemical explosion at the factory.

“Specialist appliances are on scene, including aerial appliances. A community advice warning has been issued for Albion, Braybrook, Brooklyn, Derrimut, Laverton North, Sunshine, Sunshine West, Tottenham, Truganina,” Fire Rescue Victoria stated.

Following the explosion, a “Watch and Act” alert was issued for the affected areas, advising residents to stay indoors immediately due to toxic smoke being blown eastward across Derrimut.

Derrimut, located approximately 17 kilometers west of Melbourne’s central business district, has a population of over 8,000 residents. Swann Drive in this suburb links several distribution centers and warehouses.

A large plume of smoke was observed drifting over Melbourne’s eastern and western suburbs, prompting Victoria’s Environment Protection Authority to advise locals to limit outdoor activities when smoke is present.

By 3:32 PM local time, the fire authority declared the fire “under control” thanks to the efforts of more than 180 firefighters and various specialist equipment, including aerial appliances.

“Our crews have been working tirelessly since 11:20 this morning and have successfully brought this significant fire under control,” said Fire Rescue Victoria Deputy Commissioner Michelle Cowling.

“There have been no reported injuries to either staff or emergency services personnel on site,” Cowling added.

The commissioner disclosed that the factory involved housed a variety of chemicals, including kerosene, fuel, methylated spirits, and ethanol.

As wastewater contaminated with these chemicals seeped into Cherry Creek, Anderson’s Swamp, and Kayes Drain, the public was advised to avoid contact with water downstream of the fire site until further notice.

WorkSafe, Fire Rescue Victoria, Victoria Police, and other agencies are collaborating to thoroughly investigate the cause of the incident. It will also take several days for fire crews to fully extinguish the blaze.

According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the fire erupted at a facility operated by chemical blending manufacturer ACB Group, the same site where a worker perished in a chemical explosion last year.

Image credit: Andrew Henshaw