FIREFIGHTERS were quickly forced into a defensive position due to the heat of a fire and partial collapse of the ceiling at the rear of the historic Sydney Building, on London Circuit, Civic, this morning.The firefighters initially forced the doors of ground floor restaurant Coo, open and sprayed water inside, as a crowd gathered on the side of London Circuit to watch the drama unfold, but were soon forced to retreat.
An explosion was heard before ACT Fire & Rescue arrived on scene with three pumpers, the Breathing Apparatus Van, Hazardous Materials Unit and two commanders, later followed by a full complement of equipment.
At around 10am, crews were searching the first floor to find the source of the fire. The building was heavily smoke logged and more ACT Fire & Rescue crews were called in. The ACT Ambulance Service had intensive-care paramedics and a duty officer standing by.
Buildings all along the opposite side of East Row, including the “CityNews” office, were evacuated.
Attorney-General Simon Corbell walked over to inspect the scene as did other Members of the Legislative Assembly and their staff.
By 11am, with firefighters still in a defensive position, the roof had been “vented”, meaning tiles had been blasted from the roof of the historic building using a powerful jet of water from a Bronto Skylift aerial platform.
Shortly after 11am, a fire crew re-entered the building and began attacking the fire on the second floor, as part of a three pronged operation, with the Bronto Skylift attacking the fire through the roof and another team continuing to hold a defensive position at ground level.
The Incident Controller, superintendent Steve Edwards, described the fire as “intense and significant” as firefighters tried to minimise damage to the building.
By 11.50, the fire was still spreading through the roof ducting and onlookers were moved further back as thick smoke filled the air.
The fire was largely extinguished just before 12.30 with firefighters continuing to monitor hot spots.
An emergency services spokesperson said the building appeared to be structurally intact but had suffered extensive damage inside, and that Civic interchange was likely to remain closed for several days.
One woman was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation.
Words and pictures by Stephen Easton.