A unused Catholic Church has become the target for an arsonist forcing an overnight emergency in Lake Illawarra.
Piles of rubbish left alongside Sacred Heart Catholic Church, on the corner of King Street and Bradman Avenue, were set alight just after 6pm on Wednesday, September 6.
When the triple-0 call for 'church alight' was received, it sent firefighters from Shellharbour, Albion Park and Warrawong scrambling to get to the scene.
"There was smoke and flames at the rear of the building," Fire and Rescue NSW Shellharbour Station Officer Ben Martin said.
"It was just outside the church."
The flames were quickly extinguished, and some of the fire trucks were called off en route to the scene.
The church was part of the All Saints Catholic parish and ceased to be used in the mid 2010s.
Meanwhile, Shellharbour City Council has approved a $29 million Warrigal aged care facility for the site.
The approval allows for 65 single-storey seniors housing independent living units and 84 car parking spaces.
The development will also see the demolition of the church, which ceased being used with the opening of the new Catholic church built on the corner of College and Glider avenues in the Shellharbour city centre.
One option presented to the council had the church being used as the community hub but the council decided its removal created a better layout for the aged care facility.
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Warrigal once had different plans for the site; in 2007 the aged care provider gained approval for a two-storey, 125-bed aged care centre.
However Warrigal decided not to proceed and the council felt the new plans were "more suitable for and sympathetic to the locality".
The Illawarra has had a five-year spike in house fires, with 25 homes severely damaged or destroyed during winter.
Firefighters are so concerned about the statistics, that they've teamed up with the Illawarra Mercury to provide free smoke alarms for homes in the Illawarra and fire safety advice for residents.
There is no catch, the smoke alarm is free so is the fire safety advice.
If you're reading this story on your mobile phone click here to book, otherwise scan the QR code below to request a free smoke alarm be installed at your home.
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