THE moment police were notified of the first signs of fire in Nimbin's Cullen Street, at 3.23 am, firefighters were on their way.
But it was always going to be an uphill battle once the blaze took hold and began to spread from the timber constructed heart of the village, the Rainbow Cafe.
As flames leapt several metres above the cafe, the Nimbin Museum, Tribal Magic and BringaBong, locals watched on in anguish as decades of history, art and memories went up in smoke.
NSW Rural Fire Service Northern Rivers branch superintendent, Michael Brett, said a total of 35 firefighters were called to the scene, as well as the Hazmat unit.
The Nimbin RFS crew was the first to reach the blaze, following closely by the Blue Knob crew.
"The key was to make sure the fire didn't spread," Supt Brett said.
"All of the buildings are old, wooden structures, so this could have been a lot worse.
"Everyone worked really well together - they have done an amazing job in making sure the fire didn't spread to other businesses. The crews worked like a well-oiled machine.
"It's also lucky that no-one was inside at the time."
Paramedics remained on standby at the scene until 6.20am and treated one RFS volunteer for smoke inhalation.
Richmond LAC Crime Manager Detective Inspector Cameron Lindsay said a 27-year-old Nimbin man provided a statement at Lismore Police Station yesterday morning and was released without being charged.
"We spoke to him about the possible causes of the fire and how the fire came about," he said.
"At this stage the fire is being treated as suspicious and the large scale and the amount of damage that has been done is something we will investigate."
Fire and Rescue NSW Commissioner Greg Mullins warned residents not to be complacent about fire safety, as the Nimbin blaze was one of nine serious house and building fires in the region.
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