Trial By Fire: Inside The Gutted Telstra Exchange Building (Photos)

At 4am on Thursday morning, a small fire broke out in the roof of a Telstra telephone exchange in the south-west Victorian town of Warrnambool. Over the course of the next few hours, the fire would tear through the once-pristine communications hub, leaving it a sad shell of what it once was. The ash has now settled, but 60,000 Victorians are still without basic telco services. Come with us for a tour inside the gutted exchange building.

Firefighters who attended the blaze reported that there was significant damage to the roof and inside the building as a result of the fire. That one-line statement barely begins to describe the damage.

Telstra has rolled out temporary mobile phone service via the use of a Satellite Cell on Wheels, also known as a SATCOW, and Giz readers in the area report that phone and internet services are still out.

The telco this morning reported that mains power had been restored to the building. Now begins the reconstruction process.

Images: Telstra



    This is what happens when your VESDA systems don't operate in time/at all and you don't have adequate fire proofing/sprinkler systems/etc. Walls barely even look as though they were fire rated.

      Really? The walls look like the only thing left.

      Looking for the contract are you mate?

      The timber wall studs still look intact (no signs of blackening or burns). Looks like it was fire rated to me speaking from my 20 years as a Civil Engineer.

    Might be time to audit the rest of their installations. Easy way to take down a country's coms if all you need to do is jump a fence and light a fire.

      Or find a sign on the side of the road that says something to the effect of "Fiber, do not dig"... and... dig...

    So what was the cause of the fire?

      Being from Port Fairy, I was told it had something to do with a transformer... And apparently Telstra was due to replace it next week.
      This could be (and probably is) all BS, it's just what I was told.
      I know they're investigating the cause today so there'll probably be something on the news tonight.

        My local exchange, can confirm that it was due to the transformer and it was scheduled for replacing the following week but this happen before they got to it.

        thumbs up for the emergencies services getting there within minutes though.

    They'll have to travel back to the 80s to replace all their cutting edge tech.

      Don't be silly. It was never cutting edge.

    I hope they were wearing a mask! That looks like a lot of (potentially harmful) Fibro Sheet on the walls!

    I'd be surprised if they rebuilt it as a traditional copper exchange, I think you'll find they're going to refit it as Fibre and migrate customers to the NBN immediately - much like South Brisbane.

    The cost of rebuilding the exchange with a copper PSTN setup is likely the same as rebuilding it with fibre, then again theres also NBNCo who may be directed to divert resources into rollout there right now as a matter of urgency.

    I guess we wait and see.

      Old exchange needing an upgrade catches fire in the wee small hours. I see what you're saying....

      And what makes you think this would be possible in a reasonable amount of time?

      Don't think residents would be happy about not having any service for the next year while they rollout fibre to everyone affected.

      Possibly the dumbest thing I've heard in a while. Wanna take a guess at the time-frame to lay fibre for an exchange footprint as large as Warrnambool? The fibre is laid in parallel to the copper network, the cut-over (and removal of the copper) takes place a the very last minute of the process.

        Please explain your point of view. Because from where Im sitting, with sufficient resources - it could be done in a very small time frame. Theres no logical reason why it COULDNT be done other man manpower... You could even go so far as to say replacing the exchange internal systems with fibre and rolling out to the node as an even quicker solution. Its not like the original copper is totally destroyed, only the exchange area. You could quite quickly adapt the FTTN rollout style to remove areas like this.

        There are options here, Im sure Telstra would be looking at whats in their best interests, not the ones of their competitors. You still have timeframes for those competitors to readd and reconfigure their equipment after Telstra's finished their initial installs - which takes more time. If you're expecting these services to be up quickly, you're deluded.

      So that is all I need to do to get an internet service for people in my area hey, make sure the exchange burns down, then incomes Fibre.

      I am not condoning a fire in any exchange, it is simply a smart arse comment, and I hope everybody takes it that way, I do not need the cops banging down my front door.
      even with my name.

      So I should burn down my local exchange in the hopes to get NBN quicker. I think you're onto something here.

    Well speaking as a Engineer of 20.5 years, i'd say.. The building is rooted.

      Speaking as a Draftsman with 7.5 years experience, I second the notion.

      Last edited 23/11/12 10:06 pm

      Speaking as a gamer of 20+ years I'd say the latency of Warnambool has just shot out to 46656000000ms.

    Optus did it

      What do you mean Optus did it?
      It was the carbon tax!

    Why every exchange should be fitted with halon deluge systems. Did it have alarms? Its Telstra, of course not.

      Halon gasses are banned for use as fire fighting agents within Australia.
      Nasty, nasty stuff.

    Why not roll out the NBN there instead.

    With the rate of rollout they'd get a few people on it!

    This usually happens with remote Australian exchanges when more than 5 people are on the internet at one time XD

    I'm sure malcon Tunbull will ignore the state of this infrastructure and claim it can all be done wirelessly. The stae of our copper has been on life support for almost 2 decades but heaven forbid we put in optic fiber in its place.

    You'll probably find that around the corner amongst the smouldering ashes is a perfectly fine fire extinguisher.. LOL

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