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Challenging House Fire, Mosman

Published: 4th July 2006

Firefighters had to cope with an incredible amount of combustible material stored in and around a home when called to contain a fire in the single level brick house at Mosman on 29 June 2006.

The NSW Fire Brigades received several triple zero calls just before 2.30 pm and when fire crews arrived four minutes later they found the rear of the house engulfed in flames and neighbouring property under threat. Access was severely restricted by accumulated old furniture and building materials stored at the house, making it difficult to stop the fire which was spreading to the house next door.

Ultimately 30 firefighters from 6 brigades were committed to fighting the fire. Firefighters put on air cylinders to search both houses and attack the fire. The fire in the neighbouring house was put out before it could cause serious damage inside, but there was damage to the outside. Fortunately no-one was found inside the burning houses and all occupants were accounted for some time later.

Most of the firefighting resources were committed to controlling the fire in the house of origin as it burned intensely and spread rapidly owing to the enormous quantity of combustible materials stored in the house. The smoke from the fire could be seen from the city.

After searching the house, the fire crews’ priority was to protect the houses on either side. It was difficult to attack the main fire because of what seemed like impenetrable barriers of old furniture and similar obstacles, until the roof collapsed and allowed crews to access the seat of the fire. The fire was contained after about an hour, but fire crews worked tirelessly until around 7 pm until the fire was completely controlled. Firefighters remained on the scene throughout the night painstakingly pulling apart the burning debris to extinguish pockets of fire and the occasional flare-up.

The fire destroyed about 80% of the house and caused serious damage to the upper level of the neighbouring house. Fortunately there were no injuries. The cause of the fire is being investigated by the NSW Fire Brigades Fire Investigation and Research Unit and the Police.

This fire shows the hazards of accumulating combustible materials in and around the home. The hazards include:

  • piles of combustible material close to ignition sources
  • the more combustible material there is, the more intense a fire will be and the quicker it will spread, and
  • accumulated materials obstruct escape routes and make it difficult for firefighters to rescue occupants and fight the fire