SMOKE from a conveyor belt at a grain storage facility was the cause of an emergency incident in Narrabri yesterday, with a 600-metre exclusion zone shutting roads, railways and resulting in a school evacuation.
At 10.45am yesterday, reports that a fire had begun in a silo at the Graincorp facility on Cooma Rd sent emergency services racing to the scene.
Fire and Rescue NSW units from Moree, Narrabri and Gunnedah attended the incident, along with an SES crew, hazmat teams and Barwon Local Area Command police.
The 600m exclusion zone around the site was announced shortly afterwards as a precautionary measure.
The zone extended along Cooma Rd to Old Turrawan Rd.
Narrabri West Public School, which is just 200m from the facility, evacuated 300 students to Gately Field, between Cooma Rd and Wakawa St.
The Department of Education released a statement at noon yesterday saying all students and staff were safe and well and that the school would be closed for the rest of the day.
A crew from John Holland who had been working near the site were also evacuated.
There was concerns the Newell Highway would also have to be closed, but it remained open throughout the incident.
However, a rail line close by was shut for three hours, to give firefighters access to the site.
Fire and Rescue NSW teams used thermal-imaging cameras to locate the source of the expected fire, but it was determined that smoke from a conveyor belt was the cause of the emergency.
The area was declared safe and the exclusion zone lifted at 2.15pm.
Tamworth Rural Fire Service community safety officer Peter Roffe said silo fires were particularly hazardous, as the design of the facilities made access difficult for firefighters, and materials stored were highly flammable.
“Grain and organic materials generate large amounts of dust which could be ignition sources,” Mr Roffe said.
“There is a significant risk of explosion with these types of fires.”