Bank fire declared suspicious
By Isaac McCallum and Brad Lester
A FIRE in a Leongatha bank last week is being treated as suspicious.
CFA investigators and Wonthaggi detectives are still investigating the blaze, which caused up to $20,000 damage.
Leongatha CFA captain Andy Kay said the fire had the potential to be a repeat of the devastating Henrietta’s fire, had firefighters not arrived so quickly on the scene.
More than 25 firefighters from seven brigades battled the blaze last Tuesday week.
Detective Sergeant John Rose of the Wonthaggi CIU said: “The fire is believed to be suspicious. There was definitely not an electrical fault.
“Detectives are investigating the incident further. We currently have a number of leads we’re looking into.”
Captain Kay said the outcome could have been more serious if the fire had been allowed to burn for another 15 minutes.
“Soot had settled about a foot above the ground and if it had got any hotter, we would have had a flash-over and there would have been more intense flame. Possibly then we would have lost the ceiling,” he said.
The blaze was contained to just the one room by fire crews, who made quick time in answering the call of a security guard at 9.05pm.
The damage is expected to amount to around $20,000 with computers and other office equipment damaged beyond repair.
The blaze broke out in the manager’s office. Closed doors restricted flame damage to that room.
Security officers were called to the bank after the smoke alarm sounded, but not a burglar alarm. They found the bank full of smoke and notified the CFA.
Leongatha CFA was first on the scene. The fire was deemed serious and back-up units from Leongatha South, Nerrena and Koonwarra were called, along with the Inverloch communications vehicle and the breathing apparatus support unit from Traralgon to refill oxygen tanks.
The fire was brought under control by 11pm.
Carpets sustained substantial water damage as a result of firefighting efforts. The bank was ventilated in a bid to remove smoke.
No neighbouring buildings were affected.
The bank re-opened Thursday. Westpac customers who withdrew money from other banks’ ATMs were compensated upon showing the receipt of their withdrawal.
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