The council is insisting that the former St John’s orphanage be rendered safe and secure as a matter of urgency.
Mayor Bob Kirk said on Saturday he’d spoken to Hume Local Area Command crime manager, Detective Inspector Chad Gillies who was “obviously” concerned about the number of fires and the resulting damage.
Three fires have broken out at the complex in the past two weeks. Police believe they were deliberately lit. Thursday night’s blaze came on the first anniversary of another major fire at St John’s.
Cr Kirk said he’d also spoken to Hume Local Area Commander Andrew Koutsoufis, building owner John Ferrara and council general manager, Warwick Bennett.
The council’s building inspector will liaise with Mr Ferrara and his structural engineers, who will again inspect St John’s and complete a report.
“I have raised with Mr Ferrara that the ongoing danger has only been made worse by these latest fires,” Cr Kirk said.
“That which held the walls up before is worse and will only increase the possibility of collapse and falling roof.”
The Mayor said he’d asked Mr Ferrara to secure the building, given there would be “hell to pay” if people continued visiting the site and injured themselves.
“I understand everyone’s concerns that the place is a risk,” Cr Kirk said.
“I have asked Mr Ferrara that if he can’t fence it off to at least put in security patrols to keep people out until an assessment is made.”
Another emergency order could be issued, on top of one two weeks ago. The Mayor said he was unclear on the processes following this, including the need for a development application and heritage assessment on the 1912 EC Manfred designed building.
He will be meeting with all parties to gain “clarity.”
“To think someone wants to make a habit of doing this type of thing...It must be terribly scary for the people along Auburn Street having a fire raging near them,” Cr Kirk said.
“It’s a very sad development and I don’t hold a great deal of hope for the rest of the building. There are unanswered questions but for now it’s all about safety and security. It’s future will be decided when we have those reports on structural integrity etc.”
The Mayor also lamented the public resources and money spent to battle the blazes. Up to 100 firefighters fought the fires over the two nights.
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