City News

Suspicious fire burns brothel

A ‘suspicious’ fire torched a brothel in Surry Hills, closed due to the coronavirus restrictions. Fire experts are looking into the cause. Photo: James Harrison


A fire emerged at 10 Bellevue Street, Surry Hills, early evening on 30 May, quickly spreading next door to number 12, a brothel that has been closed for over two months due to the coronavirus pandemic. The fire is being treated as suspicious by police, with an inspector and police captain arriving to investigate. The fire brigade was called at 5.50pm and the fire quickly put out.

“We arrived, we had a lot of smoke issuing from level one and level two from the two-story terrace,” staging officer Richard Schembri said. “We forced entry into the front of the terrace… we put a ladder up through both level one and level two. Obviously, firefighters (were) in self-contained breathing apparatus, (we) took hose lines in, found the fire and put it out. It was a pretty substantial fire.”

The fire spread quickly next door to 12 Bellevue Street due to a connecting door between the two properties although it is believed that the fire began in the back of the building. However, the particular room of origin has not yet been identified. Properties either side of ten and twelve Bellevue street were left unharmed and the speed at which the fire spread was not considered unusual by Schembri.

“When you think about what your house furnishings are made of now, most of them are petrochemical-based,” Schembri said. “So, it’s not like our grandmother’s, who had woollen mattresses. Like your lounges and your furniture, most of it is very flammable, so it does spread very quickly now.”

No clues yet
When questioned about the suspicious nature of the fire Schembri responded, “As far as the fire brigade is concerned, we’re just looking for the cause and origin of the fire. We’ve got the general vicinity of where the fire started but we’re gonna have our fire investigation team come in tomorrow [Sunday 31 May] and they’ll work with the police forensic services group and they’ll bring more expertise to try and get to the bottom of what were the ignition sources in that area. With regards to who was involved, that’s the police job.”

Schembri also stated that it is too early to tell how the fire started and that investigations would continue over the following 24 hours.

Brothels have been closed since March 31st in NSW due to the coronavirus pandemic and many sex-workers fear being left out of lockdown reopening plans. In addition to this, some sex workers also feel reluctant to apply for Jobseeker or other Centrelink benefits due to the attached stigma of sex work, so those involved in sex-work industry have experienced a particularly harsh strain on their finances.

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