Heritage warehouse destroyed
By RACHEL SCOLLAY
SOUTH Lismore residents were jolted awake to the sound of explosions just before 2am yesterday, only to find a heritage-listed warehouse flanked by petrol depots and residential homes, raging on fire.
Two blocks away, Jenny Riley said she heard explosions that sounded like fireworks.
With her husband and daughters they went to investigate and were hit by the heat of the fire while still 100 metres away from the Kyogle Street warehouse.
Flames were bouncing off the roof, 30 metres into the air, she said.
"And the fumes were pretty potent," she said.
Jenny said she believed the fire was deliberately lit because she initially heard cars before the explosions.
"And because of how fast it took off".
Louise Hunter who lives directly opposite the 110 year-old building said she was woken by her dog at about 2am, by which time the fire was 'well and truly alight and things were going 'pop', 'pop'."
The most spectacular part was the waves of flames bouncing between the pointed roofs, she said.
Meanwhile the whole neighbourhood was soon out on the street to watch.
Louise said she called her father to come in case she needed to hose down her house, and he had to sound his horn to get through the crowd.
Acting duty officer Darren Winkler said the crime unit had been investigating the fire yesterday morning and while they weren't ready to pronounce it arson, a number of vehicles were seen in the area immediately before the fire, and they were seeking information from the public if they saw anyone acting suspiciously in the area.
NSW fire zone commander Geoff Barnes they received 30 triple 0 calls in a ten minute period and were on the spot within 10 minutes ? just before 2am.
He said the proximity of the two petrol depots was initially of concern.
Though the fire burned for several hours it was contained within the first half hour, he said.
Twenty-five firefighters were there until 5am, and crews were back later hosing down hot spots.
The building was owned by the State Rail Authority and was leased to a transport company.
One thousand wooden pallets were destroyed, along with an office, a fork lift and several cool rooms containing fruit.