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Nimbin fire "suspicious", police say

The Nimbin fire, contributed by Elspeth Jones of the Nimbin Museum.
The Nimbin fire, contributed by Elspeth Jones of the Nimbin Museum. Contributed by Elspeth Jones

UPDATE 2pm: THERE are still no arrests, but police say they are now treating the fire that destroyed three historic buildings at Nimbin this morning as suspicious.

Local police crime manager Detective Inspector Cameron Lindsay said police have obtained a statement from a 27-year-old Nimbin man in relation to the fire.

The man was taken to Lismore police station this morning, where he provided a statement and was released without charge.

Det Insp Lindsay said the fire was being treated as suspicious and police would be speaking to a number of other witnesses. 

Forensic investigators are waiting until the fire site cools so it is safe to examine the crime scene.

UPDATE 8.37am: POLICE have rejected rumours of an arrest over the fire that destroyed three buildings in Nimbin's main street this morning.

There have been rumours in Nimbin that police had already arrested one person and were searching for another, but Inspector Doug Conners said this is not true.

Insp Conners said it was too early to say whether the fire was suspicious.

"Our forensics team will work on the scene," he said.

"As with all old buildings, asbestos can be an issue.

"We take our advice from the NSW Fire Brigade and they have advised that precautions must be taken on the scene, but there is no danger to members of the public."

Insp Conners said one lane of Cullen St was now open to traffic.

The other lane and the footpath will be closed for some hours.

Partner in the Nimbin Museum, Elspeth Jones, said she got a phone call about the fire at 4am.

"We drove straight here, but 10km out I could see the glow in the sky and I knew it was bad," she said.

"It was an inferno.

"It's just old wood, but it's also Nimbin's history.

"I've been coming to this museum every day for 22 years. It's been in my constant care.

"I am in shock."

UPDATE 7.30am: THE flames have gone and with them a large slice of Nimbin's history.

Michael Balderstone, who has spent the past 30 years working and building the Nimbin Museum, said he understood this morning's fire started at the back of the Rainbow Cafe before spreading to the museum.

Despite the best efforts of firefighters, the blaze destroyed the museum and Tribal Magic along with half the Bringabong shop before being brought under control.

Mr Balderstone said the fire was a "kick in the guts" for Nimbin, but could have been much worse.

He said Nimbin's fire crew had gotten to the scene quickly and had been working to stop it leaping across the narrow gap to the neighbouring Nimbin Real Estate when instead it leapt the laneway between the cafe and the museum.

By the time the flames were doused there were 34 firies and nine trucks on the site.

"The firies have done really well," Mr Balderstone said.

"When you see the size of the flames leaping out of it ... they have done well."

Mr Balderstone said the town was lucky there was little or no wind when the fire took hold, or the damage might have been far worse.

"If there had been a breeze that whole side of the street could have gone," he said.

"We have always lived with this possibility.

"For a long time there has been the homeless element, the hopeless element. They are always in the middle of town at night ... and it's all old wooden buildings.

"It's winter and people light fires because it's cold."

While not commenting on the possible causes of this morning's fire, which is being investigated by the police, Mr Balderstone said it was not the first time it had happened, noting the destruction by fire several years ago of the old butcher shop at the back of the museum.

For Mr Balderstone, the loss of the Nimbin Museum means the destruction of a work that has dominated the last three decades of his life.

"It's nearly half my life - 30 years," he said.

Mr Balderstone said Nimbin was a resilient community and would rebuild, but the museum was gone forever.

INITIAL REPORT: THREE buildings have been destroyed in a major fire at Nimbin's historic Cullen Street, the Rural Fire Service has said.

The Rainbow Cafe is believed to be among the buildings destroyed.

The fire service says 34 firefighters and nine trucks from the Rural Fire Service and Fire and Rescue NSW are on scene now, fighting to control the fire.

Cullen Street is expected to remain closed for most of the morning.

Topics:  editors picks, fire, nimbin, nimbin fire




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