NSW Fire and Rescue commander Bruce Fitzpatrick remembers a long night two years ago when the Centrelink building caught fire.
All hands were on deck to control the blaze, later revealed to have been deliberately lit by two brothers. The fire also destroyed the St Vincent de Paul charity store next door.
Memories of that night were recalled on Friday as the new building was officially opened by Hume MP Angus Taylor. The structure, also including the ‘Vinnies’ store, was rebuilt by partners Robert Rampton and Steve Jones.
“I remember only too well the sirens, the smoke and that very pungent smell,” Mr Taylor said.
“It was really devastating at the time and we didn’t know how we’d keep the service going. But the firies did an amazing job and it was a wonderful response by the community.”
Over the next two years, the service operated from premises opposite, also owned by Mr Rampton and Mr Jones.
But now staff are back “home,” as service centre manager, Marianne Leonard said.
“It’s fantastic to be back,” she said.
The spacious premises include a large open plan front of office space and a large processing area, meeting and staff rooms at the rear. Stand-up desks are a feature of the back area.
Department of Human Services manager for Southern NSW Tracey Sheather said the fire was an extraordinary event but she was very proud of the staff’s resilience and courage throughout.
The 44 Centrelink staff have been back in the premises for two months.