The Department of Defence has completed a Commission of Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding a fire on the Marrangaroo Training Area (Training Area) near Lithgow on October 16, 2013.
The Defence Explosive Ordnance Training School was conducting a training activity to dispose of high explosive ammunition at the Marrangaroo Training Area. The Commission of Inquiry found the fire at the Training Area resulted from a ‘kick out’ which occurred during that activity.
Despite Defence members’ efforts to extinguish the fire, it grew in size and intensity and attempts to fight the fire ceased when ordnance began to explode. The Rural Fire Service was called to the Training Area but did not fight the fire because of the risk of injury from exploding ordnance.
The Commission of Inquiry made 20 recommendations intended to reduce the risk of fire at the Marrangaroo Training Area. Defence has accepted 19 of the recommendations and is considering the remaining recommendation regarding the most appropriate person to cease activities on the range.
The Commission of Inquiry also made adverse findings against two Defence members. The Chief of the Defence Force, General David Hurley, AC, DC, has referred these findings to the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison, AO, for consideration.
As a result of the Commission of Inquiry, Defence is taking proactive steps to improve fire safety at Marrangaroo Training Area.
Defence will work closely with the NSW Rural Fire Service to develop a Memorandum of Understanding to address hazard reduction and the bushfire response within the Marrangaroo Training Area. The MoU will stipulate what fire fighting equipment should be available on site and the circumstances in which the Rural Fire Service will respond.
Defence will engage with the Bureau of Meteorology and the Rural Fire Service to develop an improved fire index system for Defence to more accurately assess the fire danger.
Separate to this action, Defence has also commenced a review of all Explosive Ordnance Disposal courses and the Standard Operating Procedures to account for and handle ordnance during training activities. This work is being undertaken as a result of the incident at Marrangaroo and will be implemented across all Defence Training Areas.
A redacted copy of the Commission of Inquiry Report is available at: http://www.defence.gov.au/Publications/COI/Reports/Marrangaroo_COI_Report.pdf
Defence Media Operations (02) 6127 1999