House fire suspicious, loud explosion heard

November 09, 2017

Firefighters work to put out the blaze.

Flames take hold of the old Victoria Street house.

Plumes of smoke could be seen in the sky as fire tankers raced to the scene of a suspicious house fire in Wahgunyah last Thursday afternoon.

The blaze broke out at about 1.15pm and it didn’t take long for the flames to take hold and spread through the weatherboard home in Victoria Street.

No one was inside the home.

Firefighters from Corowa, Rutherglen, Wahgunyah and support crews from Wodonga attended the scene, making it around 35 firefighters on scene and six fire tankers.

Wodonga detectives and crime scene officers also attended, with the cause of the fire being investigated and treated as suspicious.

A neighbour described hearing a loud explosion before running outside to discover a house engulfed in flames.

Meanwhile, nearby residents came out of their homes and passers-by stopped to watch the drama unfold.

Police blocked off the road for several hours.

CFA District 24 Operations Officer Matt Johnson described the fire as intense, which left the house gutted.

“It was certainly an older building but no asbestos was detected,” he said.

“Firefighters had to be careful due to the fact there was a lot of timber construction and there was significant damage to the structure fairly early on.

“Initially we had an external attack on the building and as we were able to assess the suitability of the structure, we then moved inside to conduct an internal attack and searched the building.”

Mr Johnson said extra crews were called upon due to the warm weather.

“There’s lots of radiant heat from a structure fire and we made sure we were rotating our crew to look after the welfare of the firefighters,” he said.

Among the first on scene was Corowa resident Jodie King who was visiting a friend in the area when she noticed the thick, dark smoke.

“We followed the smoke and went around the block before we realised it was a house,” she said.

“There were a couple of fire engines in the street when we arrived and more came shortly after.

“We were a bit concerned that it may have been coming from the childcare centre nearby where my friend’s child goes.”

Jodie said it did not take long for the blaze to take hold and spread.

“It’s a very old house and the firefighters are being very careful.”

Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus tackled the blaze.

It took about an hour to bring the fire under control and crews were mopping up until 6pm.

“There was a lot of smouldering and hot-spots that needed to be continually monitored and mopped up,” Mr Johnson said.

“The initial crews really did a great job to stop it from spreading to neighbouring properties as it was a real threat when I turned up and so they did a great job to keep it contained.

“They also did a great job in minimising as much damage as possible.”

“Crews were also quick at getting an advice message out to the childcare centre down the road; it was a message from police to get all the kids inside to keep them out of the smoke, so it was a good effort.”

Mr Johnson said the fire was deemed suspicious and Victoria Police were conducting an investigation along with the CFA Fire Investigators to determine the cause.

Meanwhile, firefighters from Wahgunyah were called back to the scene on Friday morning after reports of smouldering.

Crews attended for a short time.

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