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Don’t Look Up!

Done In By "Friendly Fire"

FIREFIGHTERS IN NEW SOUTH WALES, AUSTRALIA, experienced a new sort of job hazard while fighting a wildfire on November 6.  A helicopter/tanker designed for fire suppression aerial drops mistakenly loaded up with partially-treated sewage and sprayed not just the fire but 19 firefighters and their brush trucks.  The Australian reports:

An RFS (Rural Fire Service) spokesman said today a helicopter mistakenly drew up secondary treatment water from a sewage treatment plant. It was then dropped near 12 firefighters, while another seven firefighters were in the general area.

"Following this, all 29 firefighters on the fireground and their equipment were immediately withdrawn and decontaminated by Fire and Rescue NSW," the spokesman said.

They were also checked by paramedics at the scene and as a precaution each firefighter was given a further medical check the following day, he said. "At this time no firefighters have complained of any ill-effects." The spokesman said the firefighters would continue to be monitored by the RFS.

ABC News adds:

Inspector Baker said it was not a matter of a fire fighting operation going wrong.

"The aircraft will always go to the nearest water source at the initial stage of the fire," he said. "Those types of treated water have been utilised before for fire fighting operations,"

"We're going to undertake an after action review or an investigation into the incident, to take away some lessons from it," Inspector Baker said.

The labor union isn't sluffing it off so easily, though.  The Australian Workers Union is demanding a full investigation into the incident.  AWU spokesman Mark Hughes said the fact that the chopper went to the sewage treatment plant in the first place stinks to high heaven.

"For some strange reason, around 7:30 in the morning during the water-bombing, a call was made from the RFS Commanders to use the sewage treatment plant rather than much more accessible water sources such as the Camden Haven River, Queens Lake or the Cowarra Dam," he told ABC.net.au. "There are primary and secondary treatment plants, so basically you've got one pond that's got raw sewage and one that's been treated. What they were dumping was the untreated sewage."

ABC News has MORE DETAILS.

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