- ABC 7 News

ABC 7 News

Firefighters responded to a massive factory fire in the New South Wales Hunter region in Kurri Kurri, a small town in Wales, Australia, on Nov. 14. The site is used for multiple purposes, including processing aluminium slag, incinerating medical waste and storing items like hand sanitizer, highly volatile acetylene gas bottles and other chemicals.

Authorities issued an emergency alert after explosions and gas cylinders shot into the air. 

Strong winds fanned the blaze, which 180 firefighters from Sydney and Hunter, battled throughout the night. Aerial footage from the Weston Aluminium site shows a factory building fully engulfed in flames and thick black plumes of smoke overhead.

Superintendent Scott Dodson from Fire and Rescue NSW told news media onsite that it was one of the biggest fires he had seen in 23 years.

"Fire is still uncontrolled, it's expanding, we've backed away due to safety concerns, but we're still attacking the fire from a defensive position," Superintendent Dodson said.

"We've had some explosions, some gas cylinders going into the air, and that's why we had to withdraw our troops from being so close and that's why we're doing a defensive attack."

On Sunday, Superintendent Dodson said the fire, which was burning at about 700 to 1000 degrees Celsius, was expected to continue overnight.

NSW Police said there was no current risk to residential properties and there have been no evacuations at this stage. However, ongoing toxic smoke prompted a warning to residents to stay indoors, shut windows and doors.

When crews first arrived at the site they found a number of wooden crates alight and flames threatening neighbouring structures. They discovered pallets of ethanol hand sanitizer had caught fire. Strong winds helped spread the fire to nearby brush and grasses.

The hand sanitizer on site made the blaze challenging to extinguish because the product is flammable.

The building is believed to have been unoccupied when the blaze started. No injuries have been reported.

Business owner Garbis Simonian reported he believed he was the victim of an arson attack, targeting hand sanitizer being stored alongside a factory building.