Old Port Kembla school demolition begins

Demolition work will begin at the fire-damaged former Port Kembla public school today as part of efforts to make the site safe.

The work will bring down all that remains of the badly damaged first floor and everything above the ground floor windows.

A key concern during the works will be asbestos, some of which fell onto the ground immediately outside the heritage listed building after it was gutted by fire overnight on January 3.

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No-one - including fire investigators - has been able to inspect the inside of the building as it is considered unsafe.

Port Kembla Copper, which bought the site in 2000, will use air monitors and keep the site damp to reduce the risk from asbestos during works today.

Port Kembla Copper general manager Ian Wilson said the site boundary had been monitored for asbestos since the blaze, with good results.

"We'll be following the recognised standards for dealing with this type of a problem. I don't think anybody should anticipate that there'll be any major problems," he said.

Wollongong City Council last week granted an emergency demolition order allowing the works to proceed.

A long-reach excavator will be used to knock down the brickwork once the outside asbestos has been collected in buckets.

Lake Illawarra police are investigating the fire and are expected to enter the building when deemed safe.

The fire is thought to have broken out in one of the upstairs fireplaces, in a room once used as a classroom.

Authorities suspect arson as the cause.

The damage has set back plans to convert the site into a community arts precinct.

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