Residents are accusing authorities of being ill-prepared for emergencies at the badly contaminated Maribyrnong Defence Site, in the aftermath of a fire that tore through buildings at the former munitions factory.
An out of control blaze at the site just before 1pm last Wednesday spread thick smoke and ash across the surrounding area as dozens of firefighters worked to contain a grassfire that spread to a disused building off Cordite Road.
Water-bombing helicopters joined the battle to contain the blaze, along with more than 20 MFB fire appliances.
Paramedics called to an address in Maribyrnong at 1.03pm assessed two people at the scene for smoke inhalation.
Maribyrnong, Maidstone and Avondale Heights residents were advised to move indoors, close doors and windows, and shut down air-conditioning.
But Maribyrnong resident Fulvia Constantinou said the fire revealed how under-prepared authorities were to deal with emergencies at the site.
Her efforts to ascertain the potential health impacts of the fire have also been met with frustration.
Ms Constantinou, who lives directly across from the site, said the MFB, EPA, Department of Defence and Maribyrnong council had all failed to adequately communicate or provide suitable assurances the smoke from the fire and ash left in backyards and houses was not dangerous.
“No one is taking responsibility for this,” she said. “There doesn’t appear to have been a fire management plan in place – the MFB had to wait for over half an hour to access the building.”
Ms Constantinou said the fire sparked a traffic nightmare that highlighted how redevelopment the site would exacerbate traffic in the area.
EPA spokesman John Rees said the fire had been deemed to be of “low risk” to health.
“Officers jointly evaluated the smoke from the Maribyrnong fire, with particular regard to possible human health issues, and determined that there was low risk to health.”
A Department of Defence spokeswoman said Defence is investigating the cause of the fire and assessing damage to the property.
“Defence will not provide further comment until those examinations are complete.”