'Get out, get out!'
By ANDY PARKS
“GET out! Get out, the house is on fire!”
That’s how Gloria Parker, who works at Horseland in North Lismore, found out the building next to Horseland was going up in flames yesterday afternoon.
The blaze quickly took hold of a two-storey building in Bridge Street, eventually destroying it and forcing traffic to be redirected around the dramatic scene for several hours.
The smoke was first spotted by Darren Bassey, who was drinking at the nearby Northern Rivers Hotel about 1.15pm. He said when he saw the smoke, he knew ‘it was more than just a barbecue’.
He told barmaid Jules Love to call the fire brigade, which she did.
“A couple of fellas from here ran over to make sure there was no one in there,” Mr Bassey said.
One of the people who ran over was a man who wanted to be identified only as Vaughn.
“I ran over and called out and a bloke came down. He said there was no one else in there and then he closed the door and went back in,” Vaughn said.
“Someone else kicked the door in and told him to get out.”
Other witnesses said they saw the man standing on his balcony talking on a mobile phone while smoke poured from the building. The man was seen leaving the building twice with what was described as a computer and a drawer from a filing cabinet.
Lismore Fire Brigade was quickly on the scene but by then the blaze was out of control. Police evacuated nearby residents and workers from a service station.
“It was all smoke and just got stronger and stronger, and now there’s flames coming out the top. It looks like it’s in a lot of trouble now,” Darren Bassey said, as he watched the action unfolding from the window of the Northern Rivers Hotel.
The building was an old timber shopfront, on the corner of Baillie Street and Bridge Road, which was being used as a private residence, according to Ms Parker who was having her lunch when a woman ran in and shouted the warning to her to get away.
“The smoke was bellowing out and it was alight before we knew it,” she said.
Duty Commander with the New South Wales Fire Brigade, Gary White, said they managed to contain the blaze before it spread to other buildings. It took more than an hour to bring it under control.
An investigation, in conjunction with police, would be carried out to determine the cause of the fire, he said.