16 June 2023

UPDATE: Police begin investigations after historic Yass hotel is gutted by 'suspicious' fire

| Claire Sams
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The damaged Commercial Hotel with a Fire and Rescue NSW truck, with blue sky above

More than 30 firefighters, police officers and emergency service workers took on the blaze. Photo: Sally Hopman.

UPDATE 12:30 pm: Investigators are appealing for information after the historic Commercial Hotel was extensively damaged by a suspicious fire in Yass overnight.

Fire and Rescue NSW attended and extinguished the early morning blaze however the building was extensively damaged. One neighbouring property suffered water damage but the fire was contained to the hotel site.

The property was vacant at the time and there were no reports of injuries.

Officers from The Hume Police District have established a crime scene and commenced an investigation into the cause of the fire, which is being treated as suspicious.

As inquiries continue, anyone with information is urged to contact Yass Police or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

9am: More than 170 years of history has gone up in flames after a fire gutted the Commercial Hotel overnight.

“We received a triple-0 call to our call centre at approximately 1:30 am this morning, and our local crews at Yass were the first on the scene,” said Fire and Rescue NSW Deputy Commander for Region South 2 Dean Campbell.

“When they arrived, they saw the old hotel well alight already, in the western part of the building, and the fire quickly spread to the remainder of the building.”

The historic hotel on Comur Street was built in the 1840s, with developers recently starting restoration works on the property.

Last drinks were called in 2005, with the site becoming derelict.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

“That’s being investigated by police crime scene and fire and rescue investigators, who are waiting for the site to cool before they decide on entering.”

However, their efforts will be hampered by the poor condition of the building, Mr Campbell said.

“It’s a very difficult scene to investigate because the first floor has collapsed onto the ground floor. The roof has also collapsed onto all of that, so there’s a huge amount of debris, and the building is quite structurally unsound at this point.

“We’ve used our aerial drone to map it and take photos for the investigation.”

NSW Deputy Commander for Region South 2 Dean Campbell: “The first floor has collapsed into the ground floor and the roof has also collapsed onto all of that.” Photo: Sally Hopman.

Due to the risk of the building collapsing on firefighters, Mr Campbell said the firefighters did not enter and focused on stopping the fire’s spread.

Fighting the fire was an interagency effort, with personnel from NSW and the ACT assisting.

ACT Fire and Rescue provided three fire trucks, with NSW Police and NSW Ambulance also assisting.

“The local RFS also provided quite a deal of backup to us,” he said.

A spokesperson for the NSW Rural Fire Service said they were alerted to the fire at around 2 am, with crews at the scene until approximately 5 am.

Fire trucks and other emergency vehicles in a dark street

An investigation is underway into the cause of the fire. Photo: NSW RFS Southern Tablelands Zone/Facebook.

When asked about the possibility of squatters living in the Hotel, Mr Campbell said no signs were found.

“It’s not something that’s new to us – we certainly do it all the time – and our firefighting always starts on the basis that there may be someone in the building,” he said.

“We searched as much of the building that was reasonably safe for us to do so and didn’t see any signs of that, but that’s not to say that there wasn’t or couldn’t be someone in the building.

“They’d be unknown to us at this point.”

Mr Campbell asked that the community stay away and an exclusion zone is in place.

“Obviously, don’t climb over the barricades and don’t walk past the building if you don’t need to.”

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