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Shoalhaven Starches remains closed after silo fire + VIDEO

Emma Alsop, May 29, 2024

Crews remain at the scene of a silo fire which closed Shoalhaven Starches’ plant on Monday. Photo: Fire and Rescue NSW

AUSTRALIA’S largest grain-processing plant, Shoalhaven Starches’ Bomaderry facility, remains closed following a silo fire that caused the evacuation of 15 staff members on Monday morning.

Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) firefighters responded to an automatic fire alarm activation at the site just before 9.30am on Monday.

On arrival, the crews found a smouldering silo, containing 600 tonnes of pelletised stockfeed.

An exclusion zone was established, which has impacted all buildings within an 800-metre radius of the burning silo.

FRNSW Duty Commander Richard Jones said Bolong Road has been closed in both directions and nearby businesses have been evacuated, impacting daily operations.

“Whilst business operations have been impacted, the actions of the facilities staff and firefighters has prevented the fire spreading and causing any further damage,” Inspector Jones said.

FRNSW crews, a scientific officer and HAZMAT and rescue teams are working together with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), NSW Police and Rural Fire Service (RFS) and the on-site facility engineers to remove the product from the silo in the safest way possible.

FRNSW Zone Commander, Superintendent Mark Cavanough said that while this is a protracted incident, all measures are being considered to ensure the fire is ultimately extinguished safely.

“FRNSW is deploying a drone every hour to measure the temperature of the silo to ensure it remains safe,” Superintendent Cavanough said.

In a statement, owners of Shoalhaven Starches Manildra Group said the site was closed until further notice.

“Manildra Group’s onsite team is working with FRNSW to remove the smouldering product from the isolated silo,” the statement said.

“Emergency protocols and safety measures have been enacted while this removal is taking place.

“We remain committed to maintaining the highest workplace health and safety standards for our employees and the Bomaderry community.”

The cause of the blaze is yet to be determined.

The Bomaderry site has been plagued by several emergency incidents over the past year.

The most significant, an explosion which occurred in a gluten dryer on July 16 last year, did not impact production.

SafeWork NSW were contacted and investigated the incident.

The same dryer was again cited as the cause of another explosion at the facility in November 2023.

Shoalhaven Starches is Australia’s biggest producer of ethanol, and is a major exporter of gluten made at the plant which trade sources consumes around 880,000t of wheat per annum.

Just last month company received $44 million from the Federal Government to undertake energy efficiency upgrades at the Bomaderry plant.

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