SYDNEY (AFP) – More than 130 firefighters battled towering flames and thick smoke yesterday as a huge blaze consumed an unoccupied seven-storey building in central Sydney.
The flames appeared to be dying down as firefighters poured in water from multiple hoses two hours after the fire took hold in the vacant building near the Central Station railway hub.
“We’re on top of the fire but it’s still burning,” NSW Fire and Rescue superintendent Adam Dewberry told AFP, explaining that a “significant structural collapse” made it too dangerous for firefighters to enter.
More than 130 firefighters and 30 fire trucks were at the scene, he said, dousing the blaze from the ground, ladder trucks and crane-like aerial ladder trucks.
“It looks like we have stopped the fire spreading to adjoining occupied buildings, which is good news,” Dewberry said.
“But the main fire building is destroyed,” he said. The fire had also spread into another “abandoned and derelict” three-storey building, he said.
Shortly after the blaze erupted, flames almost as high as the building itself could be seen shooting into the sky.
The entire top floor wall leaned over and crashed in pieces into the street below, fire service video showed, as the building glowed orange with flames.
The carcass of a burning van was parked in front.
One firefighter suffered a minor burn on his right arm but did not need hospital treatment, the fire service said. Firefighting would extend throughout the night, it said.
There were no other reports of injuries from the blaze, which broke out in the afternoon in a building described by Australian media as a heritage-listed, unoccupied former hat factory.
“The public is urged to avoid the area as firefighting operations continue,” the fire service said earlier, as the sound of emergency vehicle sirens echoed through the city streets.
One commuter, Corrin Ellis, told the national broadcaster ABC he was going to catch a tram when he noticed the fire.
“All you could feel when standing here was heat on your face from the flames,” Ellis told the ABC.
“And when they started to move us back, a car just in front of the building caught fire,” he added.
“The front of the building collapsed and flames just spewed from the top of the building.”
New South Wales Premier Chris Minns urged people to “stay safe”.