Fighting the Cobrico peat fire

In mid-March, a bush fire tore through Cobrico in Victoria’s south-west, igniting the peat bog underneath. This left behind toxic levels of carbon monoxide and caused the temporary relocation of 20 per cent of residents. With no decent rainfall expected, a four kilometre layflat hose was laid to create a temporary pipeline to pump water to the site and extinguish the threat.

The recent fire that tore through Cobrico, burned over 15,000 hectares of land in a peat bog. Firefighters worked day and night using fire trucks, helicopters and bulldozers to try to contain it. However, peat fires are extremely difficult to manage as they require a significant amount of water running continuously to extinguish them.

Peat is created over time in wetlands through the build-up of partially decayed vegetation such as leaves, grass and root systems. Once ignited, it is a challenge to extinguish and can burn for months or years. It burns similarly to briquettes, emitting significant smoke as it does.

This smoke can reduce air quality, and contains fine particles, water vapour and gases including carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. It may also contain sulphur compounds which are odorous.

If left to burn, the Cobrico peat fire could have spread through the vegetable matter up to 10m below the surface and damaged prime farming land.

Bringing water to the peat fire
Since the traditional method of using fire trucks and the expenses of helicopter water bombing were not having the desired effect, the decision was made by the local authorities to flood the area using large volumes of water. After careful consideration of the pipeline options available to bring in this water, flexible layflat hose was decided upon as the most efficient and economical option. 200mm diameter layflat was rapidly connected to a valve in the

Major Ottway Pipeline, four kilometres away, and this brought water to the peat fire in just 48 hours.

State Emergency Management Commissioner, Craig Lapsley, said that with no decent rainfall on the horizon, an above-ground temporary pipeline was deemed the only feasible way to get a constant and significant amount of water onto the peat fires in a short time.

“One of those is to put above-ground piping to bring [water] from a major reticulation main; it’s quite extensive but necessary without rain,” Mr Lapsley said.

Installing the solution
The temporary pipeline was assembled using Crusader Hoses’ flexible layflat hose which was supplied on reels of 200m plus some shorts. This was easily and efficiently transported to the site in only three truckloads, due to its compactness, and the full four kilometres of hose was unrolled and in-situ within one and a half days. The water was soon flowing through at 50 litres per second at 10 bar pressure and this rapidly contained the fire behind an inactive edge.

The segmented hose pumps water 24 hours a day alongside roadsides and across paddocks until it reaches two dams dug at the edge of the peat fire at Lake Cobrico. There are irrigation pumps going from the dams into sprinklers which directly attacks the fire. The water is also being used to flood a trench which is acting as a fire break.

The construction of the pipeline took just 48 hours—one expert said such a feat would ordinarily take weeks—and is understood to be the first time such a method has been used to fight a peat fire in Victoria.

Francois Steverlynck, Managing Director of the Australian-made Crusader Hose, said, “We have been in the development and manufacturing of high-quality flexible layflat hose systems for over 33 years and we are happy that the benefits of this method were proven in extinguishing the Cobrico peat fire.”

Once the layflat hose and pump was installed, roads were reopened without obstacles as the hose had been placed in culverts at crossings and ran alongside. The layflat hose was deployed with minimal environmental impact and a soft footprint.

Residents were permitted to return with health risks significantly reduced.

The layflat hose will next be retrieved by rolling it up on reels or pallets. It will then be ready to move water again at whatever site it is needed at.

This partner content is brought to you by Crusader Hose. Fore more information, call 03 9720 1100 or visit www.crusaderhose.com.au.

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