Two 13-year-olds handed themselves into police after a major fire destroyed two multi-storey buildings in central Sydney.
Witnesses reported seeing a group of young people running from a heritage-listed seven-storey former hat factory near Sydney’s central station shortly before the massive fire.
The fire took hold around 4 p.m. (0600 GMT) Thursday, police said in a news conference Friday.
NSW police acting Assistant Commissioner, Paul Dunstan said that two 13-year-olds went to separate police stations in the city Thursday night and began assisting with inquiries.
They added that three or four other young people were present during the fire, urging them to come forward.
Dunstan said that 15 people were believed to have slept rough in the building the night before the blaze.
Police made contact with 13 of them and were looking for the other two.
Fire and Rescue NSW Acting Commissioner Jeremy Fewtrell called the blaze a once-in-decade type of fire.
“You’ve got a building that’s well over 100 years old. You’ve got all the dry, very seasoned timber, stacked up, the framework, the building, the floors, the staircases.
“It enabled the fire to spread very quickly vertically.
“In a sense, it’s the perfect set of conditions to have a very intense fire,’’ Fewtrell said.
The former hat factory and a building next to it which used to house a karaoke bar were destroyed in the blaze.
The fire was extinguished as of 1 p.m. on Friday, the fire rescue service said.
Police said the former factory in Sydney’s Surry Hills neighbourhood had been vacant for about 12 months amid deconstruction work.
According to reports, the building is due to be turned into a 123-room hotel.
The cause of the fire remained unknown.
More than 120 firefighters and 30 fire trucks were deployed to extinguish the flames, the fire rescue service said.
One firefighter sustained minor burnt during the operation while at least 50 people from surrounding buildings were evacuated due to concerns about the structural integrity of the burnt-out buildings.
The redevelopment project, with a cost of nearly 40 million dollars Australian (26 million U.S. dollars), was approved in 2020.