May 17, 2014

Open Day at Matraville Fire Station, Bunnerong Road.   There will be demonstrations, hose handling, thermal imaging Camera activities and advice on fire safety and Air Services Australia will be in attendance.

From The Australian, 4th May, 2014

FIREFIGHTERS who attended a fuel spill with the potential to ignite and threaten a Sydney peninsula faced a choice.  Leave the two million litre tank to leak, evacuate the peninsula around Banksmeadow on Botany Bay and wait for a catastrophic explosion.

Or volunteer to wade through the fuel pool and repair the leaking valve. NSW Fire and Rescue (NSWFR) station officer Ron Morasso looked at his colleagues and made his choice. “I said to him, ‘what was going through your mind’?” NSWFR commissioner Greg Mullins told AAP after presenting Mr Morasso with the fire service’s highest bravery award. “[Mr Morasso] said to me, ‘I looked at my crew and thought – he has two young kids, his wife is pregnant, he is only young…it’s got to be me’.”

Mr Mullins said even a spark from a car passing the Caltex fuel terminal would have risked an explosion with enough ferocity to close Sydney airport and any subsequent fire might have taken days to extinguish. Mr Morasso, who has since retired, was presented with the NSWFR medal for conspicuous bravery on Saturday.

From SOUTHERN COURIER 4th May, 2014, Laura Suckling. 

Maroubra station officer Max Metzker and senior firefighter Russell Vance, Matraville sta

Max Metzker, Russell Vance, Stephen McFadyen, Kevin Blissett and Brendan Ebejer have been awarded for their work in a major petrol spill last year. Picture: John Appleyard Source: News Limited

  • 21 firefighters awarded Fire & Rescue NSW bravery awards
  • Alexandria fireman awarded highest FRNSW honour
  • Firefighters believed death was imminent during oil clean-up
  • 130,000 litres of volatile unleaded fuel leaked during spill

“Catastrophic, there was no other word to describe it.”

That was the first thought Fire and Rescue NSW Maroubra Station officer Maxwell Metzker had when he arrived at a petrol leak at the Caltex terminal near Port Botany last year.

More than 130,000 litres of highly volatile unleaded fuel gushed after a valve malfunction on July 12.

Mr Metzker said the tiniest spark could have set off a devastating explosion, flattening the immediate area and shutting down fuel lines to Port Botany and Sydney airport.

Matraville station officer Stephen Mcfadyen said a train sped past about 30m away from the flammable pool of petrol while firefighters were working to reduce the risk of explosion.

“I thought this was it. We’re gone,” he said.

“It would have been like an atomic bomb if it went off, and that was going through my head the whole time.”



Firefighters from Maroubra and Matraville who were awarded bravery medals for their work

Firefighters from Maroubra and Matraville who were awarded bravery medals for their work cleaning up an oil spill under circumstances of serious danger. Picture: John Appleyard Source: News Limited


Crews from Maroubra, Matraville and Mascot worked on a major oil spill on July 12, 2013 w

Crews from Maroubra, Matraville and Mascot worked on a major oil spill on July 12, 2013 when a tank leaked 2000 litres of flammable petrol per minute at a Caltex terminal at Port Botany. Pictures: Daniel Shaw Source: Supplied

Once the threat was eliminated, Mr Mcfadyen hugged his crew for the first time in his 27-year career.

“These heroes displayed tremendous courage in preventing a catastrophic explosion in circumstances where they knew their lives were in serious danger,” he said.

The bravery of 12 firies from Maroubra, Mascot and Matraville was recognised on Sunday with FRNSW Commendations for Courageous Action.

Alexandria station officer Ron Morasso volunteered to wade through knee deep fuel to shut off the leaking valve.

He received a Conspicuous Medal – the highest honour that can be awarded by the FRNSW.

Fire crews work to reduce the threat of explosion at an oil spill at Caltex Port Botany l

Fire crews work to reduce the threat of explosion at an oil spill at Caltex Port Botany last year. Picture: Daniel Shaw Source: Supplied

FRNSW Commissioner Greg Mullins presented the awards on Sunday in Alexandria.

“If it wasn’t for the quick thinking, courage and outstanding performance of all the crews and officers, this incident could have been a major disaster for all concerned,” he said.

At the time of the spill the local fire station at Botany – which was only 3km away – had been closed at 6pm the night before, with its workers directed to fill vacancies at Campsie, 15km away.

The spill prompted scorching criticism of the NSW government’s cost-cutting policy of rolling fire station closures.

The Fire Brigade Employees’ Union said at the time the temporary closure impacted on the response by emergency services as it took longer to get adequate firefighting resources to the Caltex terminal.

3 Responses to “Open Day & Awards for Firefighters who prevented catastrophe at Port Botany”
  1. Community excluded from Disaster Resilience Planning around Port Botany | Port Botany says:

    […] The 1km exclusion zone referred to in the video included residents in Matraville but there was no notification and no followup to describe to these residents and those within 2-3km how the incident had been handled and how greater collaboration might make for better handling in the future  – see more details of incident. […]

  2. Carlos says:

    When the fuel leak happened back in July 2013 I heard the Alarm at around 1.20am did not know what it was. It was very loud, unusual, usually its the beeps clunks or inccidents at Orica and durounds. I went to have a look as I was concerned at 1.30 am, I saw the many many emergency services dealing with the incident from Botany Road, I was there for about half an hour possibly 45 minutes, there was also a tow truck, and also a camera man and another person, we did mot know what was going on at the time and were there for a while, it seemed that all was under control by the emergency services fire ambulance and more. It was like an action movie, we didnt really know what was going on at the time, no one came to. move us on, I after around 45 minutes then left. Later I heard on radio it was a fuel leak, I took pictures with my phone but did not turn out very well.The point is that the area should have been shut down as soon as the incident was detected, I thought something went wrong with the ports but it was the fuel refinery, it would be great for Randwick , Botany Councils to send out to the local residents within a few Kilometres of the Orica, All Port Botany plants fuel and other a pamphlet regarding emergency evacuations process. Not many people know what to do if a serious inccident that can seriously effect our health occures. How will we be notified, informed to evacuate, to where, what about our homes, I later heard what was going on through the radio 2GB. The Emergency Services are amazing but lets not take it for granted that people know what to do if somthing really bad, really serious happens. All we know is call the police or fire, people did then but we did not know what happend after that for a while. Lucky the many emergency service in attendance had it under control. More clear information on ongoing basis is needed to go out to the public living within a few Kilometers of these large industries which can be a threat to out safety if things went wrong. Regards, Carlos

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