Article by: Hari Yellina (Orchard Tech)
Fire crews are expected to extinguish an almond hull fire today which has been burning in northwest Victoria since Sunday night. It is estimated that around 5,000 metric tonnes of hull caught fire at Select Harvests Carina West site. The outer cover of the almond is removed when the nuts are processed and the by-product is known to spontaneously combust.
The company’s CEO Paul Thompson said the fire spread to the edge of the production facility, causing minor building damage while the equipment inside was saved. There has been some minor building damage, but it is not going to affect this operation and peoples jobs are secure. Additionally, Mr Thompson said the company’s internal fire fighting team and the CFA did a great job controlling the fire. The CFA’s assistant chief fire officer for District 18, Gavin Wright, said more than 100 people helped to control the fire, including volunteers from nearby fire brigades and professional firefighters from Mildura.
Select Harvests has started to review its practices as a result of the fire, but Mr Thompson said the other main focus was getting ready for the next harvest which is due to start in February. The hull piles are monitored 24/7. This event occurred on Boxing Day, which was a public holiday, but the hull piles were monitored a couple of hours before the fire. According to statistics, Select Harvests has 9,262 hectares of almonds orchards in Sunraysia, the Riverland, and the Riverina. All of the nuts grown on these properties are processed at the Carina West site.