Holy smoke! Historic church survive blaze

SAINT Raphael's Church staff will review the installation of smoke alarms and disposal of charcoal following an outbreak of fire at the site last week.

Fire and Rescue NSW inspector Kernin Lambert said they believe the fire was caused by charcoal disposed in a bin after it was used in mass earlier that day.

St Raphael's Parish secretary Lorraine Lasker confirmed charcoal was used during a service marking All Souls' Day and despite recent events the parish will continue to use charcoal during mass. 

"Charcoal has to be used for the parish service but we'll be reviewing how we dispose of it," she said.

Mr Lambert said the church had no smoke detectors and explained because it is a heritage building it is not subjected to the same laws as modern buildings. 

Ms Lasker said smoke detectors were on their priority list.

"Our next step is to look at the installation of smoke detectors," Ms Lasker said. 

"Services will continue we are just trying to get the smoke damage cleaned up but until then we can't estimate the cost of damage.

"It was Ms Lasker's quick thinking that saved the fire from getting out of control. She called emergency services after she noticed a burning smell and smoke coming from the Lowe Street church sacristy on Friday afternoon, November 2.Fire and Rescue NSW officers were quick to respond arriving at the scene within two minutes of the call and using breathing apparatuses to shield them from the thick smoke. 

"The smoke conditions were extremely heavy and the conditions completely pitch black. It was very hot, the fire started to spread and initially there was difficulty locating the fire," Mr Lambert said.

"The firefighters used equipment, a thermal-imaging camera to help locate the fire firefighters brought the fire under control very quickly, within 15 minutes."

Mr Lambert said there were concerns the fire would spread to the timber roof and called for an ACT ladder truck to help assess the situation.

"If the fire had got up there we would've had a very big problem but we investigated the roof and were fairly satisfied there was no fire," he said.

"We were minutes away from quite a major fire but fortunately that didn't happen."

Five fire engines and 20 firefighters attended the scene.

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