Roaches, rats scurry as fire claims Cringila hoarders’ home

Andrew Erlik, Illawarra duty commander, addresses reporters at the site of Sunday's blaze. Picture: Robert Peet
Andrew Erlik, Illawarra duty commander, addresses reporters at the site of Sunday's blaze. Picture: Robert Peet

A Cringila hoarders’ home has been destroyed by fire, with piles of garbage giving the blaze plenty to feed off.

Fire crews risked life and limb to battle the blaze, after receiving incorrect information that the property’s six residents were inside, screaming. 

The Cringila Road fibro home was well alight when Warrawong and Wollongong fire crews arrived about 7pm Sunday. 

Inside, piles of garbage crowded the floor and cockroaches and rats had been disturbed by the commotion.

Michael Adams, Warrawong Station Commander, said it took about an hour for police to establish that the occupants were not home. 

Meantime, firefighters went inside. 

“Neighbours met us on the driveway and they told us they were pretty sure the six residents were inside the house and [that] they could hear them screaming through the front door,” he said. 

“So we went into a pretty heavy offensive attack, which was quite dangerous because the fire was underneath the floorboards. Sending people in under those conditions is pretty dangerous because they can fall through the floor. 

“But considering there were six lives [believed to be] at stake we sent a number of crews in to rip the house apart.”  

The property is home to a couple and their four children. The Mercury understands the couple live in a shed at the back of the property; the children share the house. 

Paramedics assessed a neighbour for shock. 

Officers from Lake Illawarra Police District established a crime scene at the property.

The cause of the blaze remains under investigation, however early indications are that it began in a bedroom in the centre of the house, firefighters say. 

Meantime, Inspector Andrew Erlik, Illawarra duty commander, said the incident served as an example of the perils of hoarding. 

“Hoarding increases the combustible materials in your dwelling,” he said. 

“That means there’s a greater fire load, which can make the fire more intense, travel quicker and it then takes longer to be brought under control. It can then affect the property on either side.” 

Overcrowded properties also created a difficult – sometimes life-threatening – environment for firefighters, he said. 

“It’s black – we can get tangled up in that,” he said. “Its dark, it’s smoky, it’s hot and then all of a sudden we’ve got no obvious course to get out.” 

The property has been fenced off and marked with hazardous material tape, due to asbestos concerns. 

Police say the cause of the fire is not believed to be suspicious.