Third boy comes forward over Sydney inferno

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - NewsWire Photos MAY 26, 2023: Bricks and debris on Randle Street, Surry Hills, after a fire caused a building to collapse on Thursday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short

A third young boy has come forward to police over the huge inferno in inner Sydney which destroyed two buildings.

Sydney was thrown into chaos on Thursday when a massive fire a razed seven-story building in Surry Hills just before evening peak hour.

It took more than 12 firefighters and 30 fire trucks to contain the blaze, which sent fireballs metres into the air and smoke plumes that could be seen kilometres away.

Two 13-year-olds handed themselves into separate police stations in Sydney on Thursday night and are assisting police with inquiries.

NSW Police has since confirmed a third boy, aged 12, has come forward.

The walls on the front and back of the building collapsed, but there are safety concerns about the other walls. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short
Bricks and debris now litter Randle Street, Surry Hills, after the fire. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short
The huge blaze broke out at around 4pm on Thursday. Picture: Nathan Schmidt/ NCA NewsWire
The huge blaze broke out at around 4pm on Thursday. Picture: Nathan Schmidt/ NCA NewsWire

“Strike force detectives can confirm that three boys - one aged 12 and two aged 13 - who were in the building at the time the fire started are assisting with inquiries,” NSW Police said in a statement.

“No charges have been laid.”

NSW Police have not received any reports of missing persons but are trying to establish the identities and whereabouts of two people who may have been in the building the night before.

In a statement, they said it had been reported to them that 15 people were sleeping rough in the building the previous night.

“Despite exhaustive inquiries, they have yet to establish the identity of two of those people and account for their current whereabouts,” NSW Police said.

The clean up continued on Saturday. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Monique Harmer

It emerged as Arson squad detectives appealed for information and vision of the inferno.

On Saturday, the ruins were still smouldering and Fire and Rescue services continue to battle small fires which are still breaking out among the rubble.

Police appealed for any CCTV, dashcam or mobile phone footage of the fire and Randle Street from 2.45pm to 4pm on Thursday.

Videos can be uploaded to the Crime Stoppers website.

“Business owners or managers whose property is within the exclusion zone and believe they have CCTV should contact Surry Hills Police Station,” NSW Police said.

Firefighters remain on the scene monitoring the building and have reported a 70mm movements in the front wall.

An exclusion zone remains in place for two residential buildings at 1-5 Randle Street and 38 Chalmers Street, with over 100 residents having been displaced and moved into emergency or alternative accommodation.

It’s not yet known when residents will be able to return.

Meanwhile, the burnt out building should be removed within weeks, according to demolition experts.

The first step in demolishing the site would be to test whether the inner materials contain asbestos, which could present a danger to workers, according to Super Demolition owner Jack Fatouleh.

“From the age of the building, it 100 per cent will be contaminated,” Mr Fatouleh said.

Despite the near certainty that the building was made of asbestos, the demolition expert assured the public there is little danger to passersby.

“Because it was already on fire, council and the fire brigade have already put water and liquid so the dust shouldn’t get in the air,” he said.

He said that SafeWork and the City of Sydney Council will get involved to ensure that the contaminated material to a landfill disposal facility.

City of Sydney Council confirmed that they are working to assess the damage caused and establish next steps. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short

“They will make sure the site is secure and will not fall apart before demolition workers get to work,” he said.

City of Sydney Council confirmed that they are still assessing the site before making a decision on how to proceed.

“The City is working with the NSW government to manage the impact of yesterday’s fire at 7-13 Randle Street,” a spokesperson said.

“Our building health and environment staff have been on site, working with emergency services, to assess the damage caused by the blaze and are currently establishing next steps.”

The interior of the building has been completely gutted with the external walls of the two remaining sides, however there are serious concerns from officials that these may collapse in coming days, complicating the demolition process.

Randle Street and Elizabeth Street remain closed to the public due to the danger. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short

The front and back walls of the building collapsed in the fire, however a strong wind could pull down the side walls, presenting a real danger to the public according to Fire and Rescue NSW Superintendent Adam Dewberry.

“A strong wind could bring them down, if it gets in the right direction … the corners are holding it up at the moment, but there’s every chance it could come down without notice.”

Onlookers watched in horror as entire brick walls crumbled to the ground below, covering the ground with debris.

Elizabeth Street and Randle Street remain cordoned off due to the risk that the unsecured walls pose.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - NewsWire Photos MAY 26, 2023: The rear wall of the building destroyed by fire on Randle Street, Surry Hills. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short

“That‘s why we have such a tight exclusion zone for everyone, including firefighters in and around this area,” Superintendent Dewberry said.

“Those walls are too unsafe because if a brick hits you it will be severe injury or death. So that’s our main priority, safety first.”

In order to tackle the walls, Mr Fatouleh said that he expects that they will have to be “knocked down by hand up to a certain level” before it becomes safe.

He said after that, it would be time to bring in machines such as excavators to finish the job.

Despite the magnitude of the demolition job, Mr Fatouleh said that the whole process would take less than a month as those involved would want to remove the danger and return the city streets to normality.