After burning for more than a month the Hazelwood open-cut coalmine fire has been declared ''controlled'', but advice urging Morwell South residents in at-risk health groups to relocate is yet to be lifted.
It is understood the state government will announce on Tuesday an independent inquiry into the disaster. Premier Denis Napthine said it was now appropriate for a ''proper, detailed, open inquiry''.
Morwell fire 'will soon be out'
Wet weather ahead for the Gippsland area has the fighters of the Morwell fire feeling optimistic.
''The government will be proceeding with this inquiry as quickly as possible,'' Dr Napthine said. ''It is imperative that everybody has an opportunity to have their say at this inquiry.''
Official figures suggest possibly thousands of people have left Morwell because of the smoke and ash that has plagued the town for much of the past month, with 4843 residents having registered with the Red Cross an intention to move.
Relocation payments have been made in 658 cases (to families and individuals), while 2462 respite payments have been made.
Health authorities had hoped to lift the relocation advice to vulnerable health groups such as those aged over 65 on Monday, but due to an ''inversion'' over the Latrobe Valley, air quality deteriorated and a smoky haze hung over much of Morwell on Monday.
Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said describing the fire as controlled meant ''there is no expectation of any fire activity of any significance, and there won't be any fire moving out of the pit''.
''The fire is controlled but still needs to be fully extinguished - at times there will still be small amounts of smoke and possibly ash, but not at levels that will cause people concern,'' he said.
The fire has frustrated and angered many locals, with many complaining of health problems such as headaches, sore eyes and nausea because of the smoke. Some businesses have reported a drop in takings of 20-30 per cent.
In a press conference outside Hazelwood power station Mr Lapsley signalled that the fire would lead to significant changes. ''I have no doubt that this will be a catastrophic event that changes the way in which we see [and] deal with brown coal, open-cut events. And in particular those that are very close to communities,'' he said.
On the streets of Morwell, residents expressed relief that the fire was controlled, while expressing gratitude towards firefighters.
''It's wonderful news. A lot of people have gone from town,'' said Morwell South resident Christine Hammond, 63. ''I've only been back in town since last Wednesday. I was away for 17 days because the bad air was too much for me,'' she said.
Chief Health Officer Rosemary Lester said: ''We do not expect to see any long-term health effects from this event.''