Bulletin No: 133 | 8 November 2019

                         TO: ALL UFU MEMBERS                       



Unknown exposures to career firefighters at West Footscray Fire and the battle for information 

All media links below


Fourteen months ago, career firefighters battled a burning toxic cocktail of chemicals on Somerville Rd, Tottenham.  This blaze became known as the ‘West Footscray Fire’.  What remains unknown, however, is the exact cocktail of hazardous chemicals that burnt at this fire.     

Since 2018, the Union has continuously battled for information about what was stored at the Somerville Rd premises.  This information is vital for medical practitioners to diagnose and treat members who have been or are ill as a result of attending this fire.

It is only after the Union’s threat of legal action against the EPA, that the EPA released its report to the UFU on Monday (4/11).  This report appears to have been finalised mid-September 2019.  The UFU immediately provided this report to an expert for analysis.

Yesterday, The Age published an extensive report online detailing the effects of the 2018 West Footscray Fire on professional career firefighters.  Again, the UFU sincerely thanks the three members – LFF Dale, QFF Lovelace and LFF Dunell – who came forward to tell their personal stories, and to raise community awareness about the dangers of the firefighting profession and of major incidents like the West Footscray Fire.

In the online piece, which today features as both a front page and double-page spread in The Age, the human impact of fighting fires like West Footscray Fire is the focus.

In a video which features images and footage of the fire, UFU members bravely relived their experiences at the fire:

“As Kye, the driver, turned in I remember the heat that hit us was extreme. It only amplified when the explosions happened, it felt like it was burning you immediately …”LFF Dale

“There were explosions going off almost like gunfire … it was just continuous, explosions after explosions … that’s the biggest fire I’ve ever been to” – QFF Lovelace

Long after the fire was put out, career firefighters continue to experience significant health problems.  LFF Dale, QFF Lovelace and LFF Dunell bravely spoke about their experiences, and those of others, in great detail.

The candid interviews remind the community that firefighters are people, too – and fires like West Footscray Fire have an immeasurable effect on firefighters. In the words of LFF Dunell:

“We’re not disposable commodities, we’re people with families and loved ones to go home to just like everyone else”

Yesterday, Channel 9 News reported that firefighters were demanding answers about what they were exposed to at the West Footscray Fire.

This morning, UFU Junior Vice-President Mick Tisbury spoke to the ABC about the Union’s battle with the regulators to obtain information about the site, the immeasure health effects members have experienced from attending this and other recent fires, and the need to better protect the health and safety of members.

Much of the media yesterday and today has been confronting for members who responded to West Footscray and similar fires. We respectfully remind members that support services are available to all UFU members and their families.  An extensive support list can be found on the UFU website: https://www.ufuvic.asn.au/2019/11/support-welfare-services-available-to-ufu-members/



The Age online article: https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/what-happened-to-us-in-west-footscray-firefighters-call-for-answers-after-toxic-fire-20191106-p5382j.html

SMH online article (alternative link): https://www.smh.com.au/national/victoria/what-happened-to-us-in-west-footscray-firefighters-call-for-answers-after-toxic-fire-20191106-p5382j.html?ref=rss

Channel 9 6PM News report: https://vimeo.com/371574972

ABC Radio Melbourne interview: https://www.ufuvic.asn.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/19-11-08-ABC-Radio-Melbourne-West-Footscray-Fire-Tisbury.mp3


Strength in Unity

Authorised by Peter Marshall, Branch Secretary