Squatters to blame for torching heritage-listed Wagga home: resident

WHERE TO START?: One of the tenants looks at the ruins of his home. Photo: KIEREN TILLYTHE resident of a heritage-listed home that erupted in flames on Tuesday night has blamed squatters for the blaze.

The man claims he was locked out of his own home when a squatter invited local teens to a wild party at the Johnston Street residence.

Speaking toThe Daily Advertiser, the tenant said he had lost everything“but the shirt on my back” in the fire.

He claimed the fire stemmed from a dispute with ahomeless woman who had been invited into the property two weeks earlier.

On the day of the fire, police evicted the woman from the property and the landlord had secured the house.

Police labelled the fire as suspicious and have started an investigation.

After offering to help someone out, the tenant described the blaze as a“kick in the guts”.

“You don’t expect it to backfire,” said the tenant, who wished only to be known as Gareth

“Destroyingeverything someone owns with no thought is pretty selfish.”

After losing more than 40 years of memories and possessions, he did not know where to start rebuilding his life.

Wagga policecrime manager Inspector Darren Cloake said several young people were moved on from the property on Tuesday.

“Officers spoke to a number of youth from a nearby refuge who were making use of the property at the time,” Inspector Cloake said.

The cause of the fire hasnot been determined and forensic officers yesterday scoured the scene for clues.

Fire crews took close to an hour to control the fire after arriving just after 7pm.

Turvey Park station commander Geoff Edwards said no entry was made to the premises due to extensive damage.

“We couldn’t get inside because of the structural damage,” Mr Edwards said.

The roof had collapsed and much of the floor of the property hadbeen burned away – exposing bearings and joints.

Mr Edwards said the closest property was just three metres away from the burning building connected by an awning.

The neighbouring building suffered heat damage but firefighters prevented the fire spreading to units behind the property.

Mr Edwards praised the actions of one Johnston Street resident who located a fire hydrant on the road as firefighters arrived.

A neighbour said they heard nothing before their dog began barking, thinking it might have been an intruder in the backyard they went outside to find the neighbouring property engulfed by fire.

Earlier at 6.50pm, another neighbour returned from town and heard what were thought to be crackers only to see fire across the road.

The owner of the propertysaid the property will likely be pulled down.

Story from The Daily Advertiser

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