Firefighters accidentally drop sewage on homes while tackling bushfire

Firefighters tackling bushfires in Australia ended up dropping wastewater all over a residential area after an unfortunate mix-up.

There’s absolutely no denying that firefighters are heroes, and that remains true whether they’re using clean or dirty water on fires.

It just so happens that one load of water being used to tackle a fire was very, very dirty.

The mishap took place over residential properties in Perth’s northeast, where a bushfire threatened lives and homes as it burned amid high temperatures.

The fire roared through nine hectares of land and reached an emergency-level warning on Wednesday (7 February), with authorities attempting to tackle the blaze with the help of a water-bombing aircraft.

The water was drawn from ponds before being dumped on the bushfire, and it wasn’t until afterwards that they were found to contain wastewater.

In a statement released today, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services said: “During bushfire suppression operations to protect the Bullsbrook College and surrounding properties (on Wednesday, helicopters) drew from water sources that have been identified as sewage wastewater holding ponds.”

The water was dropped from the plane to tackle a bushfire. Credit: PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP via Getty Images

Authorities issued a hazardous and toxic materials alert for people living in part of Bullsbrook in the City of Swan as a result of the mishap, though they assured the high temperatures would help to neutralise any residual bacteria.

Temperatures in Perth are expected to reach 105°F on Friday and Saturday, and 100°F on Sunday.

The alert made clear that no buildings were ‘directly targeted’, but that properties in the surrounding area ‘may have been impacted by some aircraft drift spray’.

Residents are being encouraged to empty their water tanks and hose down structures and vehicles if they’ve been hit by the water.

Any locals with vegetable gardens or fruit trees have been told to hold off harvesting crops for two days, and to thoroughly wash any produce before consumption.

Premier Roger Cook has assured an investigation will be launched in the wake of the incident.

“On this particular instance (the helitankers) accidentally drew water from a holding pond in a wastewater treatment facility,” he said in a statement.

“Our priority is to keep people safe and to get the fires out and in an emergency situation sometimes it doesn’t always go to plan. We are just responding from the abundance of caution.”

The Department of Defence has said the ponds used to draw the water are fed from reticulated water supply and do not have any PFAS chemicals present.