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Coolaroo recycling plant SKM Recycling engulfed by flames for third time

Ash is falling over Melbourne's CBD as a massive blaze rages at a recycling plant in the city's north.

A large pile of rubbish is burning out of control at the SKM Recycling Centre on Maffra Street, Coolaroo, and strong winds are carrying acrid smoke and ash from the fire more than 20 kilometres south to the CBD.

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Footage shot by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade shows just how challenging the Coolaroo fire is. Vision courtesy MFB Media.

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Close up at Coolaroo fire

Footage shot by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade shows just how challenging the Coolaroo fire is. Vision courtesy MFB Media.

Police and firefighters have evacuated several businesses south of the blaze and sent the workers home to get them away from the smoke.

The MFB say it could take days to put out the blaze. They plan to deploy a drone above the flames soon to discover exactly what is on fire.

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Smoke from the Coolaroo fire was visible from the CBD on Thursday.

Smoke from the Coolaroo fire was visible from the CBD on Thursday. Photo: Eddie Jim

A relief centre has been established at the Broadmeadows Aquatic Leisure Centre, 41-85 Tanderrum Way, Broadmeadows for local community members seeking a respite from the smoke.

The centre will host a community meeting at 3pm today.

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Ken Potter, health commander with Ambulance Victoria, said there had been no surge in people calling for ambulances due to the smoke.

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"We have not had a great deal of numbers, surprisingly enough, given the size of the fire."

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The scene of the blaze on Thursday morning.

The scene of the blaze on Thursday morning. Photo: Nine News

Residents in areas impacted by the smoke are being told to take shelter indoors immediately and close all doors, windows and vents.

"We're just telling everyone to keep their doors and windows closed, and if they've got asthma they should enact their treatment plans as advised by their doctor," an MFB spokeswoman said.

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Toxic smoke is now threatening nearby residents.

Toxic smoke is now threatening nearby residents. Photo: Jason South

Air quality over the CBD remained "very good", according to the EPA website at noon.

Motorists are also being told to avoid the area and keep their car windows closed and air conditioning off.

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Plumes of thick smoke are shrouding suburbs near the Coolaroo fire.

Plumes of thick smoke are shrouding suburbs near the Coolaroo fire. Photo: Jason South

This is the third time a fire has broken out at the recycling facility this year. It was gutted by fire in February and there was another blaze at the site last month.

Callers to radio station 3AW have reported ash falling in Pascoe Vale, Flemington, Docklands and the CBD, and smoke can be seen from as far away as Frankston.

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Smoke is blanketing the area around the recycling centre.

Smoke is blanketing the area around the recycling centre. Photo: Jason South

"I just came out of The Royal Melbourne Hospital and got ash in my eyes," said caller Trisha. "It looks like blossom falling. Coming down Flemington Road, it's all settling on the cars."

One man in the area said he had a dry throat from all the chemicals in the air.

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Some businesses near the blaze have been evacuated.

Some businesses near the blaze have been evacuated. Photo: Jason South

A large smoke warning has been issued for surrounding areas including Meadow Heights, Dallas, Broadmeadows, Campbellfield, Coburg, Fawkner, Glenroy, Pascoe Value, Roxburgh Park, Strathmore and Westmeadows.

Metropolitan Fire Brigade Commander Ken Brown told that 3AW authorities were monitoring toxic smoke billowing across the city to assess the impact.

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Inside the SKM Recyling factory in Coolaroo after the blaze in February.

Inside the SKM Recyling factory in Coolaroo after the blaze in February. Photo: Twitter/@MFB_NEWS

"We're surrounding this fire and trying to contain it," he said, calling it a "decent fire fight" involving more than 140 firefighters.

The fire is creating enormous plumes of brown smoke.

In the neighbouring suburb of Dallas, which is directly in the path of the smoke plume, business owner Meral Akkus was covering her face with her hands.

Ms Akkus, 55, who runs Hot Spot Chicken on King Street, was frustrated.

"It's terrible. Third time this year," she said.

Emel Aksu, 63, said the smoke was so bad she struggled to leave her house.

"I couldn't go outside my throat hurt so much," she said.

Mahmoud Dabeoub, 54, manager at Al Fardos Bakery on King Street, said the fumes had given him a headache.

Inci Dursun, 37, who works for Mr Dabeoub, said she remembered the last time there was a major fire at the recycling plant.

"It was exactly the same conditions, a very windy day. It was exactly the same," she said.

BREAKING: Fire crews are tackling a massive rubbish pile blaze at a recycling plant in Coolaroo @9NewsMelb pic.twitter.com/Ft9uJ3x3um

— Tom Kelly (@tpwkelly) July 12, 2017

Coolaroo fire smoke from #Springst @abcnewsMelb pic.twitter.com/xWhOKpkX3U

— Richard Willingham (@rwillingham) July 12, 2017

In the chaos, a CFA fire truck and a police car managed to collide. The fire truck's front bumper is damaged and the police car lost a mirror.

A police car and fire truck collided at the scene of the Coolaroo fire.

A police car and fire truck collided at the scene of the Coolaroo fire. Photo: Liam Mannix

The recycling centre was destroyed on February 28 when fire broke out in a machine inside the processing plant about 3am, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage and sending smoke across Melbourne's northern suburbs.

The Coolaroo plant services 14 councils in Victoria and processes more than 500 tonnes of cardboard, plastic, glass, paper and aluminium each weekday.

On June 4, fire crews were called again to SKM Recycling when pallets of plastic caught fire.

A spokeswoman for SKM declined to comment on Thursday.

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