Youth centre open despite fire
MULLUMBIMBY’S youth centre is open for business and – with the help of Byron Shire Council – looks set to carry on following a fire that guttered its veranda last week.
Byron Shire Council’s executive manager of corporate management, Mark Arnold, said the cost of damage to the historic ‘Widow’s Cottage’ was still unknown but was currently being assessed.
“From a first inspection, inside is structurally sound and there are no concerns regarding electrics,” he said.
It is thought last week’s fire was caused by a candle being used by two homeless people sleeping on the veranda.
Youth worker Deborah Pearse had nothing but praise for the NSW Fire Brigade who she credits with saving the building which caters for up to 80 young people a week.
“We can’t thank the Mullumbimby firefighters enough – it is lucky no one was killed” she said.
“It is a really old timber building that would have gone up quickly if they hadn’t got here so fast.
“All our alternative education programs run out of here so we are extremely grateful.”
A 14-year-old youth sustained minor burns and was treated by paramedics at the scene.
Ms Pearse said she was seeing more and more homeless people sleeping rough around that part of Mullumbimby and it was a concern.
“They don’t seem to fit and no one knows what to do,” she said.
“It is a complex issue often involving mental health problems and they tend to hide away during the day so they are difficult to access and offer assistance to.
NSW Fire Brigade Northern Rivers duty officer, Inspector Chris Fabri, appreciated the praise for Mullumbimby’s firefighters but said it was inline with the brigade’s risk assessment process throughout all communities.
The council acknowledged the building was a known location for homeless people but was unaware of any previous incidents occurring.
“Over the coming weeks we will be talking with Byron Youth Service about their preference for a closed-in veranda and how this might be achieved,” Mr Arnold said.