Fire Destroys Lubes Factory

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A massive fire that took eight hours to control devastated toll blender TriTech Lubricants factory in Dandenong South, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, on Thursday evening.

The Country Fire Authority (CFA) was notified about the fire at 8 p.m. Thursday, CFA Operations Officer Mark Kennedy said in a press conference Friday. Upon arrival, we learned the factory involved in manufacturing engine oils had a fire that spread throughout their whole warehouse and into their storage tanks, Kennedy told reporters.

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He noted it was a very difficult fire to fight, given its intensity and the types of products involved. This certainly is up there as one of the worst fires weve had, Kennedy said. The fire did not result in any injuries or deaths.

According to a CFA statement, crews brought the bulk of the fire under control by about 4:30 a.m. on Friday, remaining on scene through the morning to monitor hot spots. More than 100 firefighters from CFA and Melbournes Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board worked to control the blaze, which the authority said threatened neighboring factories.

The main chemical involved is engine oil and the difficulty is that it burns very, very hot and is something that cannot be put out with just water alone, Kennedy said in the statement. While foam was being used to try and douse the fire at TriTechs factory, Kennedy continued, crews were also using water to cool and protect nearby buildings, especially a glass manufacturing factory that contained flammable hydrogen gas on-site. While there was some damage to neighboring factories, we were able to shut off the gas and essentially save these buildings, he added.

The CFA said that as of Monday, investigators had not determined the fires cause.

Regretfully, we are unable to continue production indefinitely, TriTech stated on its web site Friday. We will endeavor to contact our customers and suppliers as soon as practical.

According to its web site, TriTech moved to the purpose-built factory in the state of Victoria in January 2009. There the company had 35 dedicated blending tanks and more than 500,000 liters of storage capacity in its tank farm. TriTech toll blends for private label clients worldwide and does not have its own lubricants brand.

Its products include passenger car and heavy duty motor oils, gear oils, hydraulic fluids, transmission fluids and industrial lubricants, including some biodegradable lubricants.

Melbourne Water said in a statement Friday that the factory fire posed a risk to local waterways because of the potential for chemicals stored on site to leak into nearby stormwater drains. The agency set up a temporary dam in one location to try to stop chemicals from flowing into a nearby creek.

Some oil did make its way into a small natural waterway before the drain was isolated but this has not entered the main section of Eumemmering Creek, Melbourne Water stated. Weve installed about 15 booms in this area to sit on the surface and absorb the oil. Special suction trucks have removed about 40,000 liters of contaminated runoff from a nearby road drain so far, the agency said.

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