House fire sus­pi­cious, loud ex­plo­sion heard

The Free Press (Corowa) - - NEWS - BY SARAH DEAN

Plumes of smoke could be seen in the sky as fire tankers raced to the scene of a sus­pi­cious house fire in Wah­gun­yah last Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

The blaze broke out at about 1.15pm and it didn’t take long for the flames to take hold and spread through the weath­er­board home in Vic­to­ria Street. No one was in­side the home. Fire­fight­ers from Corowa, Ruther­glen, Wah­gun­yah and sup­port crews from Wodonga at­tended the scene, mak­ing it around 35 fire­fight­ers on scene and six fire tankers.

Wodonga de­tec­tives and crime scene of­fi­cers also at­tended, with the cause of the fire be­ing in­ves­ti­gated and treated as sus­pi­cious.

A neigh­bour de­scribed hear­ing a loud ex­plo­sion be­fore run­ning out­side to dis­cover a house en­gulfed in flames.

Mean­while, nearby res­i­dents came out of their homes and passers-by stopped to watch the drama un­fold.

Po­lice blocked off the road for sev­eral hours.

CFA Dis­trict 24 Op­er­a­tions Of­fi­cer Matt John­son de­scribed the fire as in­tense, which left the house gut­ted.

“It was cer­tainly an older build­ing but no as­bestos was de­tected,” he said.

“Fire­fight­ers had to be care­ful due to the fact there was a lot of tim­ber con­struc­tion and there was sig­nif­i­cant dam­age to the struc­ture fairly early on.

“Ini­tially we had an ex­ter­nal at­tack on the build­ing and as we were able to as­sess the suit­abil­ity of the struc­ture, we then moved in­side to con­duct an in­ter­nal at­tack and searched the build­ing.”

Mr John­son said ex­tra crews were called upon due to the warm weather.

“There’s lots of ra­di­ant heat from a struc­ture fire and we made sure we were ro­tat­ing our crew to look after the wel­fare of the fire­fight­ers,” he said.

Among the first on scene was Corowa res­i­dent Jodie King who was vis­it­ing a friend in the area when she no­ticed the thick, dark smoke.

“We fol­lowed the smoke and went around the block be­fore we re­alised it was a house,” she said.

“There were a cou­ple of fire en­gines in the street when we ar­rived and more came shortly after.

“We were a bit con­cerned that it may have been com­ing from the child­care cen­tre nearby where my friend’s child goes.”

Jodie said it did not take long for the blaze to take hold and spread.

“It’s a very old house and the fire­fight­ers are be­ing very care­ful.”

Fire­fight­ers wear­ing breath­ing ap­pa­ra­tus tack­led the blaze.

It took about an hour to bring the fire un­der con­trol and crews were mop­ping up un­til 6pm.

“There was a lot of smoul­der­ing and hotspots that needed to be con­tin­u­ally mon­i­tored and mopped up,” Mr John­son said.

“The ini­tial crews re­ally did a great job to stop it from spread­ing to neigh­bour­ing prop­er­ties as it was a real threat when I turned up and so they did a great job to keep it con­tained.

“They also did a great job in min­imis­ing as much dam­age as pos­si­ble.”

“Crews were also quick at get­ting an ad­vice mes­sage out to the child­care cen­tre down the road; it was a mes­sage from po­lice to get all the kids in­side to keep them out of the smoke, so it was a good ef­fort.”

Mr John­son said the fire was deemed sus­pi­cious and Vic­to­ria Po­lice were con­duct­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion along with the CFA Fire In­ves­ti­ga­tors to de­ter­mine the cause.

Mean­while, fire­fight­ers from Wah­gun­yah were called back to the scene on Fri­day morn­ing after re­ports of smoul­der­ing.

Crews at­tended for a short time.

Fire­fight­ers work to put out the blaze.

Flames take hold of the old Vic­to­ria Street house.

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