By Brooke Haffenden
LAURIMAR Community Centre went up in flames last Wednesday night, January 10.
CFA crews arrived on the scene shortly after 11.30pm to find to the meeting room area engulfed in fire with considerable smoke showing.
A media liaison officer for the CFA informed the Whittlesea Review seven CFA crews, and nearly 40 firefighters, attended the scene. Also at the scene were Victoria Police, the power company, gas company, building surveyor and City of Whittlesea.
Firefighting crews wearing breathing apparatus made a forced entry and aggressively attacked the fire inside the building. Water supply was not an issue with training from a Pumps and Hydraulics course put into practice.
CFA crews on scene worked together and were able to quickly stop the spread of the fire through the complex, saving the popular Jojays Café and adjoining office areas. However, the CFA and City of Whittlesea Council confirmed the fire has caused significant damage.
The fire started in the Community Hall section of the complex but at the time of printing no cause had been determined.
Victoria Police advised that there is an ongoing investigation to the cause of the fire which is being managed by the Whittlesea Crime Investigation Unit.
On the Doreen CFA Facebook page, one local resident, Dee Daf, noted that the area is a hotspot for criminal activity.
“Great job CFA. Unfortunately the community centre carpark is used for criminal activity which we are frequently awoken to,” she said.
“Last night we heard bottles breaking then the loud noise from the blast. Several concerns and complaints have been raised to the council to install CCTV and gate off the carpark overnight.”
Whittlesea Mayor Cr Kris Pavlidis said council is working with Victoria Police on the investigation and the complex would need to undergo a major restoration.
“It is disappointing that the centre will remain closed to the public and user groups for at least eight weeks,” Cr Pavlidis said.
“We understand that this incident is highly inconvenient and distressing, especially for the local Doreen community and thank everyone for their patience in this matter.”
The 30 regular users of the centre have been contacted to discuss alternative venue options and council is reviewing all existing centre bookings until the end of March and where possible will identify suitable alternatives.
Once a full assessment has been conducted, council will provide a more detailed timeline for works and the re-opening of the centre.