Police are examining CCTV footage to determine who may have started a fire at Sydney Olympic Park that destroyed 47 cars and left more than 30 damaged.
Fire and Rescue NSW Superintendent Ian Krimmer said the cause of the fire had not been determined, however a cigarette butt was the likely source.
"We’ve pinpointed [the source] to the area beside a vehicle … but investigations have not yet concluded as the police are still checking CCTV footage,” he said.
The grass fire began about 3pm and spread quickly to nearby cars.
A Sydney Olympic Park Authority spokesman said native grass in the area had been cut over the past week and clippings were routinely left as mulch.
There was criticism on Monday that authorities took too long to evacuate the aquatic centre. A Sydney mother, Nicola Tonuri, fled the Olympic Park Aquatic Centre with her 11-year-old daughter on Sunday as flames ripped through a nearby car park.
She said tyres were “popping like fireworks” as they left and her daughter was terrified, screaming and fearing they would be engulfed in flames.
However, a Fire and Rescue NSW spokeswoman said the first arriving officers "had no immediate concerns" regarding the safety of those in the centre, adding "due to the huge volumes of smoke and the intense heat … it was safer for people to remain inside".
But as the incident unfolded, smoke activated the centre’s automatic fire alarm system and triggered an evacuation.
Three people were treated for smoke inhalation.
Some eyewitness report suggested fuel tanks had erupted. NRMA vehicle expert Jack Haley said fuel tanks in modern cars were designed not to explode, however they could emit vapour when heated, which would add to a fire.
"The things that are most likely to explode are the spare tyre, or in a rear wheel drive car … sometimes the propeller shaft will explode,” he said, adding road tyres could also burst under extreme heat.
The Insurance Council of Australia said the average claim for written-off vehicles was about $8000, however that figure may not apply to all cars affected by yesterday’s fire.
About 10,000,000 people visit Sydney Olympic Park each year for sports and entertainment events. A spokesman for the Sydney Olympic Park Authority said it maintains emergency management plans, which were in operation on Sunday.
With Megan Levy