CBD inferno guts buildings, shuts streets
A spectacular blaze has gutted two buildings near one of Sydney’s busiest train stations.
Video footage showed huge flames and black smoke billowing from the building on Randle Street, in Surry Hills, near Central Station which broke out about 4pm on Thursday.
Explosions were heard coming from the fire and the heat could be felt from more than a block away as large crowds gathered in the streets surrounding the area.
Video footage above the scene showed the building completely gutted by the fire as parts of its exterior walls crashed to the ground below.
Acting Commissioner Jeremy Fewtrell said the “10th alarm” fire – the most severe category of fire – had been mostly contained to “the buildings that were involved”.
There are “no indications of any injuries to any of the members of the public”, Mr Fewtrell said.
At least 50 people were evacuated from buildings in the area as the fire burned through the whole interior of the building.
“There was some small level of fire spreads and some of the surrounding apartment buildings,” he said.
“Our firefighters have extinguished that fire and rescue firefighters together with NSW Police had a very significant effort in the early stages to evacuate those surrounding buildings and get people out to safety.”
Parts of the wall of the building collapsed, sending plumes of black smoke into the air.
The flames could be seen from Anzac Parade and from Redfern Station.
“I saw all these really intense black smoke hurtling towards the sky and it really stank, it smelt like poison,” a witness told 7 News
SURRY HILLS | Wall collapses as major fire engulfs seven-storey building. New video footage, released by FRNSW, shows the moment a wall from an engulfed building in Surry Hills came crashing down onto the street below. pic.twitter.com/mZeYGg1Kox
— Fire and Rescue NSW (@FRNSW) May 25, 2023
Commuters leaving the city on Thursday evening faced long delays as nearby roads were closed and train lines suspended.
Flames were shooting out of the building as firefighters blocked off Elizabeth St, while shocked commuters lined the street.
“A tornado of black smoke has blanketed the area,” one witness said.
“The building looks like the bottom of a fire pit.”
The building had been earmarked to be turned into a hotel, with a development application filed in 2019, according to the Daily Telegraph.
The plan was to spend $40 million to design a 114-room project to be dubbed The Hat Hotel, a tribute to its past as a millinery.
Construction was “imminent” prior to the blaze, with the architect shocked by the huge fire.
“I’m still processing what happened, as we designed a beautiful hotel for this site, and were very much looking forward to seeing it built,” he told the newspaper.
“Looks like that won’t happen.”
Witnesses described near constant crashing noises and ambers raining down.
Elizabeth Street has been blocked off by authorities as they continue to fight the blaze.
More than 120 firefighters, 30 fire trucks and a cherry picker were working to contain the blaze.
A lone firefighter in the crane-like cherry picker could be seen pumping water at the flames.
“The building is starting to collapse, while the inferno is beginning to spread to several neighbouring buildings, including residential apartments,” a Fire and Rescue NSW spokesperson said.
“At least one vehicle in the vicinity has also been destroyed by fire.”
It’s believed that the building was vacant however it is known as a place where homeless people camp.
A silver ute parked on the street outside was also engulfed in flames.
Police pushed onlookers back to Elizabeth Street where massive crowds of people have gathered to watch the flames.
Witnesses have seen the walls of the building collapse into the fire causing a fireball to leap metres into the air.
Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore said she was also watching and waiting for updates.
“Like you, I’m watching the aggressive fire take hold of a building in Surry Hills this afternoon. The building appears to have been completely engulfed with flames. Please stay safe and listen to warnings,” she said.
More to come