Probe into railway workshops arson

Fire crews work to prevent flare-ups in one of the buildings destroyed by an inferno at North Ipswich railway workshops on Monday night.
Fire crews work to prevent flare-ups in one of the buildings destroyed by an inferno at North Ipswich railway workshops on Monday night. Rob Williams

POLICE last night charged a man following investigations into Monday night's fire at the old North Ipswich railway workshops.

A 17-year-old North Ipswich man was charged with arson after he handed himself in to police and is due to appear in Ipswich Magistrates Court on October 18.

Queensland Fire and Rescue Service (QFRS) crews and police returned to the devastated ruins yesterday to investigate the blaze.

QFRS Duty Manager Operations Sean Toohill said that on Monday night crews arrived to find a large area well alight.

The buildings that were burning were surrounded by other buildings, including the popular Workshops Rail Museum.

"They worked phenomenally well to stop the fire spreading to other buildings," Mr Toohill said.

"We were told by the museum staff that homeless people have been known to stay in those buildings.

"When we questioned as to when they were last seen there, we were told it was that morning.

"We did have fears that someone may have been trapped inside but our search confirmed that no-one was in there.

"There is some evidence of previous fires being lit in the building by people living there; not an attempt to burn the building but some other purpose, whether it be heating or cooking. It is believed it was probably deliberately lit but the nature of it is, we can't be sure of at this point in time."

The other concern on Monday night was about asbestos fibres from the buildings' roofs spreading, Mr Toohill said.

"There were asbestos in both the buildings' roofs and our concern was that while the fire was raging, asbestos fibres could be floating around," he said.

"It was decided early on to tell people to stay inside and shut their windows and doors.

"We took samples of the air during the fire and at this point in time it's not a great concern but we are still investigating that side of things."

Fire and rescue crews spent yesterday extinguishing hot spots and wetting down the area to prevent flare-ups.

Ipswich police are investigating the blaze in conjunction with QFRS fire investigators.

Fourteen fire trucks and 46 firefighters attended the blaze that started about 6pm Monday.

Councillor Cheryl Bromage said people told her they hadn't seen flames as high since Reids Department Store burned down in the centre of Ipswich in 1985.

Topics:  arson crime fire north ipswich railway workshops police

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