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Hazmat Services provides asbestos consultancy services in response to emergencies such as the Wickham Woolshed fire in March this year. picture supplied.

On March 1st 2022 the Wickham Woolsheds caught fire with devastating results.

It took four days for the fire to be fully extinguished, buildings and inventory were destroyed and hundreds of local residents were evacuated, some for weeks.

Roads were closed, parks and playgrounds closed, and hundreds of homes were affected.

Why such a big deal? Asbestos. The roofs and interior panels of the Woolstores were constructed from asbestos cement panels.

In a fire event, asbestos-containing materials, typically used for their fire safety and non-combustible properties, can suddenly crack and rupture, causing the product to degrade as a result of moisture loss from the high temperatures.

Under these fire conditions, asbestos-containing material can shatter into smaller pieces of asbestos-containing debris. Debris containing asbestos was found within the Woolstores site and about two miles towards the plume, causing asbestos-contaminated fallout on hundreds of properties and public spaces.

Hazmat Services Pty Ltd (Hazmat) worked with government agencies, emergency services, licensed asbestos remediation contractors and surveyors to provide specialist advice, aerial surveillance and clearances during the home and public space remediation, which was finally completed almost four months after the fire.

“Our services extended to the Wickham Woolstores site where refurbishment was finalized in early November 2022,” said Hazmat Managing Director Andrew Russell.

“Due to the extensive use of asbestos over many years, it is still present in many residential and commercial buildings and can cause significant contamination of buildings affected by fires, storms and floods, and nearby properties.

“Careful evaluation is required to determine the presence and extent of asbestos and appropriate remediation methods.”

Accreditation and experience count

Hazmat is a locally owned company based in Newcastle that has been operating for over 15 years and deals with asbestos and hazardous materials issues on a daily basis.

Their consultants have extensive experience dealing with asbestos and hazardous materials on projects across Australia and overseas. Their team of qualified Licensed Asbestos Assessors are experts in the field of asbestos and hazardous materials assessment and management and can perform asbestos inspections, sampling and testing, building and property surveys, risk assessments, airborne asbestos monitoring, clearance inspections, asbestos management plans and response to emergency situations and other related ones Services.

Hazmat operates a National Association of Testing Authorities (Australia) (NATA) accredited laboratory from its Newcastle office, offering same day air asbestos monitoring services.

“If you’re having air monitoring or asbestos assessments done, make sure the testing is done by a NATA-accredited lab,” Andrew said. “Airborne surveillance and clearance inspections should be conducted by a licensed asbestos surveyor or a competent person independent of the asbestos remediation contractor, with analysis performed only by a NATA accredited laboratory.”

Asbestos Awareness Month

“If your property has been damaged by fire, storm, flood, rain or hail, you should take precautions to protect yourself and others by being aware that asbestos may be present and what you can do to avoid the potential risk from the damaged asbestos materials,” Andrew said.

“Don’t assume there is no asbestos, assume it is there. Be prepared by having your property surveyed and an asbestos register drawn up so the location and extent of materials containing asbestos are known and have an asbestos management plan covering how to deal with asbestos should it become damaged – these are required by law for commercial real estate.”

Hazmat Services can provide comprehensive asbestos assessment and identification, risk assessment, asbestos safes and asbestos remediation plans following catastrophic events and natural disasters. For more information visit or call 02 4961 1887.