Wickham Fire Incident

Page last updated: Monday 6 June 2022, 9.00am

On Tuesday 1 March 2022 emergency services attended a large fire at a storage facility (Old Wool store) on Annie Street, Wickham.

Asbestos fragments from the roof of the fire damaged buildings travelled to neighbouring areas as a result of the smoke plume caused by the fire.

The Recovery Coordination Committee is coordinated by City of Newcastle, along with Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), Public Works Advisory, NSW Health and SafeWork NSW.

Following the fire over 600 homes were assessed, cleaned and given clearance. Property owners were required to register their home by Friday 13 May. They then had until Friday 3 June to complete a Public Works Advisory Deed of Agreement to allow the assessment and clean-up of their property. The Deed of Agreement and scope of works must be signed before a licensed asbestos assessor and removalist can enter the property and start the clean-up. Residents located closest to fire site were proactively contacted and offered a clean-up.

Our Frequently Asked Questions page includes information about the assessment and clean-up process for homes. More detailed information about the process is in the Emergency Asbestos Management Plan.

What can I do if I find fragments of asbestos on my property following the cut-off date?

As with other areas that have been cleaned and given clearance, it is possible for the occasional fragment to be reintroduced into the area from vehicles, falling from trees, or from neighbouring properties.

If asbestos-containing debris is found on private property, using a licensed asbestos assessor is the best way to remove the material. To find a licenced asbestos assessor visit https://verify.licence.nsw.gov.au/

If you choose to remove the asbestos-containing debris yourself, please follow the process below which has been developed in conjunction with SafeWork NSW and NSW Health.

  1. Asbestos should be kept wet or sprayed with PVA, or a similar sealant to suppress the potential release of asbestos fibres.
  2. Don’t use high pressure water cleaners or water blasters to clean up the visible ACD.
  3. Access to the area must be limited to those involved in the ACD clean-up.
  4. Obtain 2 thick plastic bags, disposable plastic gloves or washing up gloves.
  5. Obtain a P2 face mask from the hardware store.
  6. Put on the mask and gloves before starting the ACD clean-up.
  7. Pick up (don’t sweep) the wet ACD and place in plastic bag.
  8. When finished remove gloves and face mask and place in plastic bag.
  9. Knot or seal the top of the plastic bag and then place the sealed plastic bag into the second empty plastic bag and then knot or seal the top.
  10. Clearly label the bag as asbestos.
  11. Wash and clean hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  12. Keep asbestos waste separated from all other waste.
  13. DO NOT put asbestos waste in red-lid bins or skip bins that aren’t meant for asbestos waste.
  14. From Tuesday 17 May asbestos fragments can be disposed of in safe disposal bins that are temporarily installed at Waratah Park and Islington Park to aid in the clean-up. These bins are available for use between 8am and 1pm, Monday to Friday only. At Islington Park, the bin can be found behind the toilet block. At Waratah Park the bin can be found at the main entrance gate. Gloves and sealed plastic bags will be available at these bins. The bins and the surrounding area will be inspected regularly by a Licensed Asbestos Assessor to monitor usage and safety. Contents of the bins will be collected and safely disposed of by Licensed Asbestos Removal Contractors.

Do not use these bins for the disposal of asbestos materials from renovations or other building work. Please arrange safe disposal of these materials at Summerhill Waste Management Centre following the usual protocol.

How can I report asbestos fragments in public spaces?

It is important to remember that as with other areas that have been cleaned and given clearance, it is possible for the occasional fragment to be reintroduced into the area from vehicles or falling from trees.

In the unlikely event that asbestos fragments are found, this should continue to be reported to City of Newcastle by phone 02 4974 2000 or by emailing wickhamfire@ncc.nsw.gov.au so that the area can be listed for inspection and re-cleaning if necessary.

Air monitoring

It is reassuring that all air monitoring results collected since the fire have been <0.01 fibres/mL which is below the limit of detection and consistent with normal background levels. Air monitoring will continue throughout the clean-up, and a longer-term asbestos air monitoring program is being developed to provide ongoing assurance to the community. More detailed information on air monitoring results is available.

Community updates

Our Community updates page outlines information that has been shared with residents and businesses since the fire.

What is happening on Milford Street?

Following a deep clean of the grass verges, Milford Street was re-opened to traffic and pedestrians on the afternoon of 11 May.

This work involved scraping of the top layer of grass and soil so that all asbestos debris was removed, before new turf was laid.

For further information on these works and access to Milford Street visit the Milford Street update page.

Useful Links

NSW EPA

https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/

https://www.facebook.com/NSWEnvironmentProtectionAuthority

NSW Public Works

https://www.publicworksadvisory.nsw.gov.au/

NSW Health - Asbestos & Health Risks

https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/factsheets/Pages/asbestos-and-health-risks.aspx