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Experiences of a prolonged coal-mine fire

Rebecca Jones (School of Rural Health, Monash University, Moe-Newborough, Australia)
Sarah Lee (School of Rural Health, Monash University, Moe-Newborough, Australia)
Darryl Maybery (School of Rural Health, Monash University, Moe-Newborough, Australia)
Alexander McFarlane (The Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia)

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 24 August 2018

Issue publication date: 16 October 2018




The purpose of this paper is to examine the perspectives of local residents regarding the impact of the long-duration Hazelwood open cut coal mine fire in rural Australia.


A qualitative approach was undertaken involving 27 in-depth interviews with adults who lived in the town of Morwell, immediately adjacent to the coal mine fire.


Participant concerns focussed upon fear and confusion during the event, the perceived health effects of the smoke, anger towards authorities and loss of a sense of community and sense of security. One of the significant ways in which people managed these responses was to normalise the event. The long duration of the event created deep uncertainty which exaggerated the impact of the fire.

Research limitations/implications

Understanding the particular nature of the impact of this event may assist the authors to better understand the ongoing human impact of long-duration disasters in the future.

Practical implications

It is important to provide clear and understandable quality information to residents during and after such disasters.


While there is an extensive literature exploring the direct social and psychological impacts of acute natural disasters, less qualitative research has been conducted into the experiences of longer term critical events.



Jones, R., Lee, S., Maybery, D. and McFarlane, A. (2018), "Experiences of a prolonged coal-mine fire", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 27 No. 5, pp. 534-545.



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