No harm to personnel in Antarctic fire

23 November 2003

A fire yesterday at Australia's Mawson station in Antarctica was brought under control without injury to personnel and little damage to equipment.

The fire broke out in a storage facility known as Chippy's annexe which is part of the old Mawson station complex.

It is believed the fire started because of an electrical fault.

The Australian Antarctic Division's (AAD) general manager operations, Kim Pitt, said that it was standard practice to use heating in all AAD buildings to keep the temperature at an even level.

"Freezing weather conditions would otherwise cause ice buildup inside with melt occurring when the temperature outside rises.

"The fire was extinguished and brought under control within an hour," Mr Pitt said.

"Our fire crew at Mawson acted swiftly to ensure that damage was contained in a very small area."

Mr Pitt said that the risk of fire in Antarctica was greater than in Australia because of the very dry atmosphere.

"All AAD expeditioners undergo extensive training with the Tasmania Fire Service as part of their overall required training before heading south and a certain number of these make up the nominated fire crew at each of our stations," Mr Pitt said.

Mr Pitt said that the Mawson station leader had reported that due to the swiftness of the fire crew's action in extinguishing the blaze there had not been any risk of danger to personnel.