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Out of control coal fire in Australia
About a month ago, someone intentionally set a brushfire near the city of Morwell, in eastern Victoria, Australia. That city has been a center of coal mining in Australia for more than a century, with several major mines and companies in the area. The brush fire migrated until it hit part of the exposed coal seam, starting this conflagration.
Coal mine fires are nasty. You have all the ingredients for an absolute mess; if the mine has been worked, there is easily-flammable (practically explosive) coal dust everywhere, there is an air supply, and there is an enormous supply of fuel to burn. In some cases, the only way to put out the fire is to mine the coal ahead of where the fire is heading, cutting off its fuel supply.
This fire has been burning for about 4 weeks and it may take weeks, months, or even longer to get it under control. Firefighters are attacking the blaze but that is creating additional problems; spraying water onto loose rock can set of landslides, which could even make the fires worse. Authorities have recently ordered residents of the area who are elderly, pregnant, or at risk from breathing problems to evacuate the area due to pollution from the fire.
Fires like these do happen in coal mines, and sometimes they even cost the mine its entire output and more. A notable mine in Pennsylvania near the town of Centralia turned a town of 1,000 residents into a ghost town. A location in Australia known as Burning Mountain has burned continuously for ~6000 years.
Image credit: Keith Pakenham/CFA
Capilano Dam ➾ Luke Gram
From the book “Building London: The Making of a Modern Metropolis” by Bruce Marshall.
Photo from the archives of Getty Images
Thanks to tytusjaneta