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Crime scene established to investigate Surry Hills fire

Demolition crews continue to clean up damage caused by the big fire in Surry Hills, Sydney.

Demolition crews continue to clean up damage caused by the big fire in Surry Hills, Sydney. Photo: AAP

Police have taken operational control of a Sydney heritage building gutted by fire last week, officially declaring it a crime scene as they investigate the cause of the intense blaze.

Fire and Rescue NSW handed the site in Surry Hills over to police on Wednesday but will continue to play a role in the building’s demolition and investigations.

Officers will guard the scene as efforts continue to declare it safe for forensic examinations and other inquiries to start, including the deployment of cadaver-detection dogs.

Inquiries continue into whether two people who were part of a larger group sleeping rough in the building the night before the blaze were inside at the time of the fire.

“While police have not received any reports of missing people, investigators are unable to definitively say there is no one inside,” a joint FRNSW and NSW Police media statement said.

Additional demolition machinery arrived at the site on Thursday and it is expected remaining walls will be brought down before investigators can enter and nearby residents can return to their homes.

“The priorities for the emergency operation are to render the fire ground safe to allow on-site investigations, co-ordinate for the safe demolition of the remaining structures, limit the impacts on traffic and public transport and, importantly, house-displaced residents and ensure the timely return to their properties,” the statement said.

FRNSW’s fire investigation and research unit will help detectives from the Financial Crimes Squad’s arson unit determine the source of the fire, including inquiries involving four teenage boys.

No charges have been laid.

Residents of 30-34 and 38 Chalmers Street are expected to be able to return to their apartments in coming days.

But it may be several weeks before 1-5 Randle Street can be reoccupied because of the need for significant works at the building, emergency services said.

At least 140 people have registered as being displaced by the fire and many have been provided alternate accommodation through Disaster Welfare Services.

-AAP

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