A CRIME scene has been set up around a Gunnedah home destroyed by fire on Wednesday night as detectives search for clues to the cause of the blaze.
It is the eighth major house fire in Gunnedah in six months but this week’s blaze also brought more drama with the home’s occupant being dragged unconscious from the backyard of the Bloomfield St house.
Emergency services were called there just before 10pm to find the house well-alight and its 65-year-old occupant unconscious, dragged from the backyard by neighbouring residents.
Police interviewed the man from his Gunnedah hospital bed late Wednesday night, and say the fire is being treated as suspicious.
Mystery surrounds the circumstances of the fire’s origin as police said the occupant told them when he arrived home just before the incident, there was no sign of fire.
The man was discharged from hospital yesterday and has told police he remembered being in the backyard walking to the house from his car and then nothing more.
Neighbours smelled smoke and seeing a car in the driveway found the man and dragged him to safety.
Police said it is unclear how the man became unconscious.
Fire and Rescue NSW Gunnedah Station Commander Rob Burns said when firefighters arrived, the front of the weatherboard house was well alight and the man was being taken care of by paramedics.
“The occupant was being put in the ambulance as we arrived,” she said.
“It took about 20 minutes to bring under control.”
Captain Burns said firefighters had to don breathing apparatus and take full precautions, including decontamination procedures, as the roof of the home contained asbestos.
He said investigators were still at the scene yesterday and he believed the fire had been deliberately lit.
After the incident Gunnedah police blocked the road for several hours while a search of the area was conducted.
The blaze comes in the wake of The Leader report in February that senior firefighters were concerned there was a serial arsonist operating in the Gunnedah area.
There have now been eight major house fires in six months, with incidents occurring in the Hopedale Av, Herbert St and Wandobah Rd areas, within a radius of a square kilometre.
Bloomfield St is 3km south-east of the other fires, but Captain Burns said the house just two doors down from the one destroyed on Wednesday night was also destroyed by fire six months ago.
A neighbour who lives around the corner said he and his wife were concerned about a vacant house next door to theirs.
“We are worried that someone might come and light it up one night.
“It seems to happen a lot round here,” the neighbour said.
Speaking to The Leader in February, Captain Burns said although he couldn’t say whether the incidents were linked, he believed a firebug was at work.
“It’s just not normal. You might get one or two house fires a year but we’ve had seven in six months,”he said. “We’ve got a real problem here”.