Foam dowsing for coal fire

03:27, Feb 11 2013
timaru hospital boiler room fire
TEMPERATURE RISING: Firefighters use foam to dowse a coal fire at Timaru Hospital.

Fire Service crews spent the day at the Timaru Hospital campus after a coal bunker was found to be burning in the facility's Boiler House.

It's not yet clear what caused the problem, Timaru fire service senior station officer Garry Parker said.

Hospital staff notified fire officials about 9.30am about the issue, which they'd apparently been monitoring with growing concern for more than a week.

timaru hospital boiler room fire
ON WATCH: The Timaru Fire Service's Hazmat Command Unit sets up outside the Timaru Hospital.

The Boiler House is adjacent to the administrative building for the South Canterbury District Health Board.

When firefighters arrived, gas detection equipment registered carbon monoxide levels at 133 parts per million, well above the 35 parts per million considered to be the maximum safe level for a workplace, he said.

Firefighters blanketed the problem area with foam and set up a Hazmat Command Unit to run communications for the scene, which is standard procedure for a long-running incident, he said.

The coal will be left to feed through the boiler, which will continue to run until the coal already in the hopper runs out, he said. Staff expect it will take two to three more days before it burns out.

Fire officials were planning to advise staff on how to monitor the situation themselves and would check in regularly until the coal supply was exhausted, he said.


The Timaru Herald