Exclusion zone around burnt-out Surry Hills building to remain in place after walls move more than seven centimetres overnight
The Surry Hills building destroyed by a “once-in-a-decade” fire remains very unstable with the walls moving more than seven centimetres overnight.
The 110-year-old heritage building on Randle Street, near Central Train Station in Sydney’s CBD went up in flames on Thursday afternoon as more than 100 firefighters worked to control the blaze.
NSW Fire and Rescue on Saturday revealed one of the external walls had moved overnight meaning the exclusion zone would need to stay.
“One external wall has moved 70mm overnight reinforcing the commitment to maintain the current exclusions zones for community safety,” a statement from NSWFR read.
“Light smouldering from deep within the rubble continues.
“It is not safe for firefighters to enter the structure to extinguish these fires.
“FRNSW firefighters remain on scene to ensure shouldering fires do not break out and take hold.”
Specialists remain on the ground at Surry Hills monitoring the unstable walls with laser measuring tools and drones to ensure the safety of those in the area.
The remaining exclusion zone includes Randle Street and the surrounding areas and buildings while the southbound lanes on Elizabeth Street were reopened on Friday night.
NSWFR Superintendent Adam Dewberry told Sky News Australia on Saturday morning all four walls were unstable but the front and back walls were the worst, placing buildings behind the structure at risk.
“It’s totally unsafe, we’ve had 7cm of movement on the wall overnight and we’ve just heard the alarm go off for further movement,” he told reporter Gabriella Power.
“We’ve got a deep-seated fire in the centre that’s in and around the basement level. Our drone has used infrared technology to identify that but it is contained, that fire’s not going anywhere, but it could break out and reignite that’s why we’ve got our fire trucks remaining on scene.
“The priority is to get this community back functioning to the way it was prior to the incident. We are working with police and all the other government agencies to resolve that to make this building safe and get the area cleared up but it is a big job, we’ve got to do it safely.”
More than 120 firefighters and 30 fire trucks from multiple stations across Sydney attended the Randle Street site on Thursday afternoon and managed to bring the blaze under control.
At least 50 nearby residents have been left displaced but Superintendent Dewberry said there was still substantial heat below the rubble.
“Currently we’ve got it pretty stable, we know that extreme heat is still deep buried in the rubble, the ruins so we are standing by,” he said.
“We won’t get complete extinguishment until we get access and that’s going to have to be around that make safe and possible, full demolition of the building.”
An Emergency Operations Centre led by police has been deployed to coordinate the ongoing response and safe demolition of the damaged building.
The NSW Police Arson Squad is continuing its investigations into the fire, with the assistance of FRNSW’s Fire Investigation and Research Unit.
During the inferno, two major sections of the building’s walls crumbled down onto the street and the structure was deemed very unstable with a large exclusion zone implemented.
Footage showed several metres of the wall tumbling down onto the road and cars below as shocked onlookers viewed from a distance.
The building was earmarked to become a new $40 million hotel but had been a hotspot for young people to explore while at least 15 homeless people had been sleeping inside.
Two 13-year-old boys handed themselves in to two separate police stations in Sydney on Thursday night and have been helping officers with their enquiries.
Police are aware of “three or four” other young people who were at the building at the time the fire broke out and have asked them to come forward with their parents to “put their side of the story”.