Firefighters clean up after fire destroys Sydney building as ...
Firemen work at the scene of a fire at a building in Sydney on 25 May. Photo: AFP / David Gray
Pockets of smouldering fire remain but are under control at a seven-storey heritage building in Sydney's inner city that was destroyed by a major blaze.
Fire crews worked throughout the night to mop up the major incident and a spokesman said this morning the scene was under control but some of the walls posed a significant threat of falling down.
"It's stable, but there's a lot of work to be done today," a Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) spokesman said.
The more-than-a-century-old former Henderson Hat factory on Randle Street in Surry Hills was gutted by fire just after 4pm (NSW time) on Thursday.
Some nearby residential buildings were initially under threat due to spot fires at the height of the blaze and have been affected by the radiant heat, according to FRNSW.
All residents were evacuated safely and forced to find alternative accommodation while fire crews carried out risk assessments on the structural integrity of neighbouring apartment blocks.
This screengrab shows people watching the building burn in central Sydney. Photo: AFP / Twitter account @grantozolins / Grant Ozolins
Acting FRNSW Commissioner Jeremy Fewtrell said it was too early to tell what caused the fire, with investigators waiting for the scene to be made safe to enter.
"Our fire investigators along with police forensics will start to make those assessments but that will be some time," he said.
"We have some engineers attending the scene and they will help guide our decisions around safety."
Sydney artist Jozef Szekeres was among the dozens of residents who spent Thursday night away from home.
Szekeres owns an apartment on Randle Street, very close to the historic building.
When he made it back to his street late on Thursday night, he was met with a large exclusion zone, with police officers stopping residents from returning.
"They said they need to check the structure," he said.
"It was two buildings across, where the fire started … but it did come into the one in between, so we have a common wall that the fire was against, so that's very concerning.
"I'm just hopeful that everyone was out of there and safe."
Fewtrell said it remained unclear what the vacant building and adjacent structures were being used for.
"At this stage, the buildings were vacant or unoccupied, whether they were under construction or about to have demolition or work done, but certainly there have been no reports in any of the information we have been able to source."
The building was set to be turned into a 123-room hotel, according to a development application lodged with the City of Sydney by developer Hanave Pty Ltd in 2019.
The plans stated the adjacent buildings at 7-9 and 15 Randle Street would be knocked down, while 11-13 Randle Street would be retained.
A nine-storey building was set to be constructed across the sites at an estimated cost of AUD$40 million, according to the development application.
Evacuated residents are likely to be allowed to return home on Friday, but it would be done "on a case-by-case" basis.
"Once the immediate firefighting action has settled down, we will be able to make those sort of assessments," Fewtrell said.
"Especially with daylight making that easier to identify."