CBD blaze: Man dies in hospital after Perth blaze above Club X
An elderly man has died after firefighters rescued him from a burning building in the Perth CBD on Wednesday afternoon.
The man, believed to be in his 70s, was rushed to Royal Perth Hospital after he was pulled from the blaze above the Club X adult store on Barrack Street about 1.10pm.
One of five St John Ambulance crews who’d raced to the scene of the fire minutes earlier treated the man for severe smoke inhalation and burns, but he was unable to be saved and was pronounced dead at the hospital.
The Arson Squad was still leading the investigation, The West Australian was told, as detectives combed through the seemingly abandoned apartment for clues as to the cause of the fatal blaze.
Both Club X and Chop Chop BBQ, the stores below where the fire is believed to have started about 1pm on Wednesday, were taped off throughout the afternoon and into the evening as inquiries continued.
The West Australian was told no one other than the elderly man was inside the apartment when the fire ignited, quickly engulfing the small room and the roof space above.
As smoke poured out from the “fully involved” building, blanketing the streets below, a fire alarm alerted nearby shoppers and retail staff, sending them scrambling to safety across the road.
The owner of Chop Chop BBQ (below the damaged apartment), Sarah Hwang, was in the kitchen with one of the staff when “big black smoke” blew into her business.
“We started to smell fire and something burning. As soon as we went out the back door we could see flames … above us,” she said.
Ms Hwang, who has owned the business for three years with her husband, said she could feel the heat from the fire when dialling triple-0 and that’s when her panic set in.
“The heat of the fire broke the club’s windows and the flames burst outside. The roof was on fire,” she said.
“We rushed out and we just saw a lot of smoke. We couldn’t see flames.”
A Department of Fire and Emergency Services spokesperson said it was too early to know the extent of the damage.
The blaze triggered a mass emergency response and saw Barrack and Murray streets shut down for hours as up to 10 fire crews descended on the area.
More than 15 ambulances, police cars and City of Perth rangers were called to the incident as well, managing traffic and crowds while firefighters battled the blaze and searched for other potential victims.
One witness told The West he’d been in the shop next door to Club X when he heard a fire alarm ring out across the area.
“We rushed out and we just saw a lot of smoke. We couldn’t see flames,” he said.
Ms Hwang said she didn’t know how long her business will be closed for, but expects it will be a while.
“The building is heritage listed, it’s very old. Structural people (engineers) and the City of Perth need to come in and make sure it is safe before we open again … it could take weeks to months,” she said.
This isn’t the first time Chop Chop BBQ has been involved in a fire – last year during Chinese New Year celebrations their exhaust fan in the kitchen caught fire, causing them to shut down for two weeks and lose a lot of money.
“Our fire was small and it took two weeks before we could reopen because of the old building. We’re not sure whether we still want to be in this building and keep operating now,” Ms Hwang said.
“We can’t confirm this won’t happen again. We are already struggling through COVID and now this, it’s pretty stressful.”
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