THE Mortimer family have vowed to reopen their Drysdale service station today (FRIDAY) as firefighters assess the damage caused by the inferno which forced the evacuation of more than 50 homes on the Bellarine Peninsula.
Fire crews were called to the Drysdale property on the corner of High Street and De Burghs Road as dozens of LPG cylinders stored in a shed caught alight and began exploding, shortly after 12.30am Thursday.
The petrol station itself has escaped relatively unscathed but the family business lost nine petrol and gas tankers.
Owner David Mortimer said early estimates suggested the fireball had created more than $800,000 worth of damage but said hire trucks would be called in immediately to cart fuel and ensure there were no shortages across his petrol stations.
“One of the boys at worked called me who lives up on the hill about 12.45am. By the time I got here the police were already here and he told me to stay away otherwise I would’ve had a crack (at putting out the fire),” he said.
“My mother’s father in 1925 started Mortimer’s and we’ve been at this site here 57 years.
“I’ve lost two gas delivery trucks and seven fuel trucks worth about $800,000.”
Mr Mortimer’s 89-year-old father Lex had undergone eye surgery the day prior and only just returned home when he had to be evacuated from his house next door.
The stoic businessman said he was forced to stand on the hill and watch on as his life’s work burned.
“I didn’t realise how bad things were until I walked down to the servo and looked up that way. That’s when the fire brigade told us to get over the other side of the road and up the hill,” he recalled.
“I was there for a while watching what was happening, it was a hell of a shock.
“It could’ve been a lot worse though, if the wind had’ve been blowing from the south instead of where it was it could’ve got the servo as well.”
Drysdale CFA captain and incident controller Brendan McDonald said about 40 firefighters spent four hours controlling the blaze.
The fire was eventually fully extinguished about 3pm — 14 hours after the blaze begun.
“On arrival we were confronted by a very large fire with gas cylinders exploding. It was in the rear of the service station in a storage facility for LPG tanks, about 50 x 20m in size.
“CFA and police evacuated homes but we don’t know just yet where is unstable and what’s stable in there.
“It’s still hard to determine which bottles have and haven’t exploded.”
CFA fire investigator Ian Beswicke said they expected the site to be made safe for investigations on Friday.
The site was still too dangerous to properly enter and assess on Thursday with large steel beams needing to be removed.
Any potentially volatile gas bottles would also need to be flared off also, he saud.
Until then the exact cause of the fire remains unclear.
An Ambulance Victoria spokeswoman said teams were placed on standby but their services weren’t required.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Extracted from Courier Mail.