CEO pays tribute to police, fireys and Council crews


RESCUE: The visiting police officer helps a contractor to shore after he was forced to jump off the end of the burning jetty. Picture: SAPOL

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Contractors’ demolition ‘hot work’ is suspected to have sparked the fire on the city’s old jetty that resulted in a dramatic rescue by a visiting police officer.

The ‘hot work’ may have sparked the fire in the plastic-based planks just after noon on the first day of demolition for the old jetty. Contractors attempted to put the fire out with two fire extinguishers but it had spread under the planks and was being fanned by the offshore wind.

The fire quickly spread along the old structure trapping one worker at the end of the jetty with other workers retreating safely to the breakwater. The worker at the end of jetty was forced to inflate a life jacket and jump into the water.

Being fully clothed, the strong current in the water was making it hard for the worker to swim away from the jetty. Fortunately, a visiting police officer from Pt Lincoln had spotted the smoke on his lunch break and upon making his way down to the jetty saw the man in distress and jumped in to action.

Stripping off, the police officer swam out to the worker and helped him safely to shore while other officers helped evacuate the other workers from the site. Metropolitan and Country fire crews and other police then arrived on the scene to promptly secure the area and get the fire under control quickly.


FIERY ACTION: Fire fighters go to work on putting the old jetty fire out.

The construction site around the jetty will be closed today and tomorrow (Wednesday, September 11 and Thursday, September 12) while building contractor Maritime Constructions conducts a full safety assessment. This will establish the exact cause of the fire and assess safety measures that were in place.

The environmental impacts of the fire will be another aspect of the assessment with Maritime Constructions already committing to putting divers in the water to clean up plastic dropped into the sea from the fire.

A Metropolitan Fire Service spokesperson said the fire had created no health hazards for Whyalla residents with the wind taking the smoke out to sea. Fire crews ticked off on a safety certificate for the site once the fire had been extinguished.

Fire crews used fresh water to put the fire out with the help of Council crews bringing tankers to the site.


PLUMES OF SMOKE: Fortunately the wind was blowing the right way and took it all out to sea.

While only early in the assessment process, Council CEO Chris Cowley said the fire wasn’t expected to hold up the jetty demolition and construction process. The present structure is being demolished in preparation for a new innovative loop-design jetty.

He said while the incident was regrettable, it was contained within the construction site now under control of Maritime Constructions, the company contracted to demolish the old structure and construct the new jetty.

“This appears to be an unfortunate workplace incident that has resulted in a fairly significant fire,” Mr Cowley said.

“It was an amazing effort from the visiting police officer to help the worker to shore and we can’t thank him enough.

“Importantly, we have had no other reports of anyone being injured in this incident and it seems there was no danger, from the fire or smoke, to Whyalla residents.

“We will seek a debrief from Maritime Constructions on the reasons for this fire and seek further assurances that all safety measures are being observed in this demolition and construction to ensure there are no more incidents of this nature.

“We’d like to thank the fire crews, police and Council crews that acted so quickly to put this fire out and ensure the safety of everyone in Whyalla.

“Out of a bad situation, it was ultimately a fantastic result with everyone banding together from the fireys, police, council crews and the community keeping its distance to allow these professionals to do their work.”


AFTERMATH: A full safety assessment will be conducted on Thursday at the old jetty site.


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