FIRE DESTROYS OLD MITRE 10
By BRENDAN ARROW
UP IN FLAMES: Flames shoot out from the old Mitre 10 building on Bentinck Street, which was gutted by fire late yesterday afternoon. The building was already earmarked to be demolished.
Fire tore through the old Mitre 10 building on Bentinck Street late yesterday, completely gutting the building that had been scheduled for demolition as part of the new Bathurst Marketplace shopping centre development.
The roof of the inactive store erupted about 4.30pm, sending black plumes of smoke across the central business district.
At least 30 firefighters were called to the scene as hundreds of curious on-lookers, many with cameras and video recorders, flooded the IGA carpark and alleys surrounding the blaze trying to get a closer look.
Police eventually moved everyone on as concerns grew that the dark smoke may have contained asbestos or toxic chemicals.
Ambulance officers were on hand, however, no one succumbed to the smoke.
Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus and particle masks sprayed the building from the outside to prevent the fire spreading to nearby businesses.
Backup crews arrived as the fire moved along the building, allowing officers to tackle the blaze from inside. However, they were forced to abandon their efforts to tackle the fire at its source when the intense heat and water combined to bring down the roof of the old building.
Almost an hour after the blaze began, firefighters appeared to have it under control.
Zone commander Superintendent Greg O’Connor said it was too early to say if the fire was suspicious, but he confirmed no one had been hurt.
“At 5.40pm firefighters received numerous triple-zero emergency calls and arrived on the scene to find the fire fully involved,” he said.
“There is still a thorough investigation to take place into the cause of the fire.
“Officers ... prevented the fire from spreading to nearby businesses.”
Stephanie Stocks from the Central West Care centre on Russell Street told the Advocate she had smelt smoke throughout the day, but each time she went outside there was nothing to see.
“We thought it must have been a cigarette butt,” she said.
“When we came out the last time we saw a small bit of smoke [coming from the building] and five seconds later, whoomph, there were just big columns of smoke coming out the roof.”
Ms Stocks said she was surprised by just how quickly the fire took hold.
“I’ve heard there may have been squatters living in the building,” she said.
“I’m sure no one was inside though, all I saw was a cat running out. It just took off pretty quickly.”
Country Energy workers on the scene said the fire could not have been started by an electrical fault as power had been cut to the building earlier in the week.
Bentinck Street was still closed between Russell and Howick Streets late yesterday as firefighters mopped up at the scene.