GRAINCORP is working with emergency services to survey the extent of damage at its Carrington grain terminal after a fire broke out in a silo on Saturday afternoon.
Fire and Rescue New South Wales (FRNSW) and NSW Police were called to the site just after 5pm.
It is believed the fire started in a dust extraction system.
No one was injured in the fire and no grain stock was affected.
Due to the risk of potential explosions, a 600-metre exclusion zone was set around the fire with GrainCorp staff, and 30 residents evacuated from the area.
FRNSW superintendent Adam Dewberry said crews remained at the site until about 7.20pm Sunday night.
He said about 18 crews were at the terminal, working in shifts, as well as teams from the hazardous materials unit and other scientific officers.
“Silo fires can…be so dangerous especially when you are talking about a potential dust explosion or the emission of hot, ignitable gases,” Superintendent Dewberry said.
“When you open the hatch, you have got a concern for explosive atmosphere and the gas coming out…
“Then you have the risk of the vessel coming apart or being destroyed, which puts risk to the adjourning properties.
“Also, we can’t just apply a lot of water into a silo because the grain absorbs the water and increases the weight and then the structural integrity becomes a problem.
“It is really a balancing act of firefighting strategy.”
He said these types of fires are often “protracted and long-term” operations due to the potential for explosions.
Superintendent Dewberry said FRNSW is working with GrainCorp to pinpoint the exact cause of the fire.
He said due to the complexity of the incident, there are many possible causes.
“Generally, fires in grain silos can occur from foreign material getting in there, overheated bearings, a faulty conveyor system or any number of problems with the mechanical systems used to move the grain.
“Depending on what the grain was…that may have been a cause as well.
“The grain industry is pretty conscious of those situations and what they need to do to be safe.”
A GrainCorp spokesperson said the health and safety of workers and surrounding residents is the current priority for the company.
“At this stage, GrainCorp is working with emergency services to understand the cause of the fire and the extent of the damage, so it’s still too early to know what the operational impact will be,” the spokesperson said.
“It is our priority to ensure the safety of the site and to get operations up and running again as soon as possible.”
A spokesperson for the Port of Newcastle said the incident did not impact vessel movements at the site.
They said due to large swell over the weekend, there were no vessel movements at the Port.
The Port of Newcastle has two bulk grain terminals: the GrainCorp site and the Newcastle Agri Terminal.
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