Firefighters have contained the major blaze that raged in Sydney’s CBD on Thursday afternoon.
The blaze broke out on Randle Street in Surry Hills just after 4pm and was later upgraded to a ‘10th alarm’, the most severe type of fire.
Bystanders watched on when the multi-storey apartment building became engulfed in flames, with smoke seen from several suburbs away.
Parts of the building, located near Central Station, collapsed and “shook the ground”, according to onlookers.
Wild footage shows the moment the building started to collapse.
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
Fire and Rescue NSW said in a press conference that the blaze is now under control.
Superintendent Adam Dewberry said 20 fire trucks were at the scene to contain the fire, which threatened to spread to nearby apartment blocks in the tightly-packed inner city street.
Police said it is “way too early” to determine if the fire was deliberately lit, with an investigation to be launched as soon as firefighters clear the scene.
One firefighter sustained a minor burn to his arm, but no major injuries were reported.
The fire erupted about 4pm today. Picture: Nathan Schmidt/ NCA NewsWireA major fire broke out in the Sydney CBD on May 25, 2023. Picture: SuppliedThe fire was located in Randle St, Surry Hills. Picture: Supplied
“More than 100 firefighters were called to the scene from multiple stations across Sydney and have been battling the flames from a safe distance,” a Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) spokesman said.
“Using specialist appliances and equipment, including ladder trucks and RPAS (drones), they successfully stopped the blaze from engulfing other nearby buildings, including residential apartments.
“A short time ago, FRNSW’s Incident Controller declared the fire is contained.
“Firefighting operations are expected to continue throughout the night, with crews to be rotated through to ensure their safety and wellbeing.
“An exclusion zone remains in place with the public urged to avoid the area.
“People living in the vicinity of the fire scene should keep their windows and external doors closed to prevent potential impacts of smoke.
“Once the blaze is extinguished, FRNSW’s Fire Investigation and Research Unit (FIRU) will work closely with NSW Police to investigate the cause of the fire.”
Flames could be seen coming from the seven-storey building and the blaze brought Sydney’s peak hour to a standstill.
“It’s actually quite wild out on the streets, people everywhere and ash falling from the sky. Firefighters blocked off Elizabeth St, while shocked commuters lined the street,” one witness said.
A massive fire engulfed a building in Sydney’s CBD. Picture: @Val0uuuuThe fire has sparked commuter chaos in the CBD. Picture: @Val0uuuu
“A tornado of black smoke has blanketed the area,” another witness said. “The building looks like the bottom of a fire pit.”
There were continuous crashing sounds heard at the scene by witnesses as the fire raged.
Elizabeth Street was blocked off by authorities as they struggled to battle the blaze.
It’s believed that the building was vacant.
The fire was not believed to have spread to other buildings but a nearby car burst into flames.
Authorities set up a large exclusion zone surrounding the burning building, with Chalmers and Randle Street closed off.
“Avoid the area. Other local roads in the area are closed as well,” Live Traffic Sydney tweeted.
Part of the building was seen collapsing. Picture: SuppliedBystanders described the scene to news.com.au.
Trains are now running as normal through Central Station, but the light rail has confirmed services on the L2 Randwick and L3 Kingsford lines have been suspended.
“Please avoid roads near Randle Street, Surry Hills during your commute,” NSW Transport Minister Jo Heylen tweeted.
“Buses are being re-routed and light rail is not running between Moore Park and Circular Quay. Sydney Trains are currently operating as usual.”
Transport Management said motorists already in the area should follow directions of emergency services and allow plenty of extra travel time.
“Additionally, L2 and L3 light rail services are not running between Moore Park and Circular Quay,” they said.
“Passengers can consider catching trains or local bus services instead, however some buses are diverting due to the road closures.”
Central Station also instructed passengers to use different exits, with the Elizabeth Street entrance sitting right next to the blaze.
Two bystanders told news.com.au: “We were sitting down at Central Station and we saw people gathering and we saw massive flames coming out of the roof of the building.
“We saw giant black smoke clouds and ash was falling from the sky and some guy said it even burnt his hair and a car out the front building was on fire as well.”
A NSW police spokesman said it is understood the building was vacant at the time of the fire, “but people have been evacuated in nearby premises”.
Michelle Slater said bystanders were screaming at people in neighbouring buildings to get out.
Eyewitness Michelle Slater told news.com.au: “I just got off the train at central station and I smelt this toxic smoke and then I looked up and there was all of this black smoke in the sky and then when I walked up the street the building was engulfed in fire and it all went bang.
“The fire just kept getting bigger and it was getting so hot and I had to cross the road to avoid the heat and there were people in the building next door and we were screaming at them to get out of the building.
“The fire brigade turned up and a car caught on fire and you could hear crashing and banging and it was so hot. I was afraid I was gonna get hit on the head with embers.”
TJ Campbell, who has lived in the building next door for 13 years, said he initially thought the blaze was coming from his building.
“I live next door and I work from home. I left at five to 4.00 and I was walking across to the pool at Prince Alfred and I saw the smoke and I thought ‘that looks like my building’,” he told news.com.au.
“Then I was getting in all these calls and I ran home and that’s our building there. I don’t know what the damage is.”
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The Randle Street property that burned is a heritage-listed site, which was formerly the RC Henderson hat factory.
It was set to be turned into a hotel, according to a development application lodged with the City of Sydney by developer Hanave.
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