Historic building demolished after three-hour fight
POLICE and fire services were left “frustrated” following the arrest of two youths near the scene of a fire at an abandoned Willow Court hospital ward.
Ten units from the Tasmania Fire Service attended the scene of a major structure fire around 12pm on Thursday, as a number of bystanders watched flames rip through the building at the New Norfolk precinct.
The fire at the former hospital ward known as Glenora House lasted more than three hours as crews worked to extinguish the blaze.
New Norfolk Police Sergeant Chris Hey said the extensive damage forced demolition of the historic site.
It was the fifth reported blaze at the precinct within two weeks, and the second blaze at the building within 24 hours, after the TFS extinguished a small fire at the former hospital ward around 5pm last Wednesday.
Police said in a statement released this week a 19-yearold man and a 16-year-old male were both charged with arson and bailed to appear in court in October.
The pair were arrested in a carpark a short distance from the blaze at The Avenue within the Willow Court complex.
Acting Tasmania Fire Service Midlands District Fire Officer Matt Lowe said the design of the affected building made the blaze quite difficult to extinguish.
“There was a lot of smoke due to the fire reaching the ceiling coupled with the strong winds at the time,” he said.
“Crews have attended several fires in this area in the last few weeks at this building and the adjoining derelict buildings.”
Mr Lowe said containing the fire was frustrating for attending firefighters.
“It’s very frustrating putting our people at risk,” he said.
“A lot of our volunteers left work to be here to address the fire.
“Not only does it affect their safety but their personal lives as well.”
New Norfolk resident Maree, who wished to remain anonymous, said she phoned triple-0 when she saw smoke appearing at her nearby home.
“My neighbours pointed out the smoke to me and I thought to myself ‘Oh my God, not again!’,” she said.
“It’s so sad to think that these old buildings, which hold so much history, are now no more.”
Sergeant Hey said he was dumbfounded by arsonists’ motives.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous for people to want to deliberately start fires,” he said.
“Arsonists don’t know the consequences they can cause. It not only puts other members of the community in danger but also members of our emergency service.
“They don’t think that far ahead, and I don’t know what is going to take to stop them.”
Mr Hey said the two males charged were identified by police following witness reports.
Derwent Valley Mayor Martyn Evans said the damage caused to Willow Court, which has been a site of graffiti and arson in recent years, was extremely saddening.
“This wilful destruction of a historic site is so disappointing for our community,” he said.
“I really feel for the community members and for those who lived and worked at the precinct in years gone.”
DRAMATIC SCENES: Tasmania Fire Service crews battle the blaze at Glenora House in the Willow Court complex, above and below.
REMAINS OF THE DAY: The pile of rubble left after the demolition of Glenora House.