Two children have surrendered to police and at least 50 residents have been displaced after the once-in-a-decade inferno in central Sydney.
Witnesses reported seeing a group of youths running from the heritage-listed former hat factory in Surry Hills on Thursday afternoon, shortly before the massive fire broke out.
As more than 120 firefighters battled the blaze, two 13-year-olds turned themselves in to city police stations last night and began helping police with their investigation, police said today.
Three or four other children, who were probably inside the building before the fire, were urged to come out with their parents.
The brick and wood building and the building next door that used to house the Ding Dong Dang Karaoke Bar were known to regularly house 15 sleepers.
Police contacted 13 people to confirm their safety.
Within an hour of the fire, the roof of the former factory collapsed, followed by the floor and parts of the building’s walls, sending red-hot bricks tumbling onto the street.
Fu Tang, a local locksmith, said he was on his way back to his workshop when he heard broken glass hitting the footpath and looked up to see the building on fire.
“The children … were shouting up, talking to another child inside the building, asking why he was still inside,” he said. Sunrise on Friday.
The intensity of the inferno will not soon be forgotten by the dozens of firefighters who rushed to the former hat factory, NSW Fire and Rescue Acting Commissioner Jeremy Fewtrell said on Friday.
“It’s really a once-in-a-decade fire,” he said.
“This is a really defining moment. You have all the dry, very seasoned wood…folded, frame, building, floors, stairs. This allowed the fire to spread vertically very quickly.
“In some ways, it’s the perfect set of conditions for a very intense fire.”
The only reported injury was a minor burn to a firefighter.
Crews worked through the night to contain the fire and remained on the scene handling hot spots Friday, using a drone to monitor possible flare-ups.
“Extinguishing the remaining pockets of fire is quite difficult because of the debris and materials from the buildings that have fallen,” Mr Fewtrell said.
The hard exclusion zone is expected to remain in place for at least seven days, displacing at least 50 residents as engineers are concerned by growing concerns about a bulging wall at the plant.
“Whether there are parts of the walls that need to be demolished in a safe way or other parts that need to be strengthened,” Mr Fewtrell said.
“The engineers will work it all out.”
Affected residents are encouraged to register online with the Red Cross for support.
The former hat factory had been empty for about four months and there were plans to convert the building into a hotel with 123 rooms and two restaurants at a cost of almost A$40 million (NZ$42 million).
According to Ruben, a property manager who lives in a nearby apartment, the derelict building was a real disaster.
Rushing home when he saw news of the fire, he said the police told him to stay inside as the flames took hold.
“It’s crazy, it was right there. I’ve seen that derelict building for years and thought it looked like a tinder box,” he told AAP.
“Like, something has to happen.”
Due to the extent of the fire and the impact on the community, a report will be prepared for the coroner.
Source link – https://www.odt.co.nz/news/world/13-year-olds-come-forward-after-sydney-blaze