News

'It was just an accident'

A firefighter hoses the flames which engulfed buildings at the old North Ipswich Railway Workshops.
A firefighter hoses the flames which engulfed buildings at the old North Ipswich Railway Workshops. Claudia Baxter

A TEENAGER who started a spectacular blaze which destroyed part of Ipswich's old railway workshops has claimed the fire began accidentally.

The fire at the corner of North and WM Hughes Sts lit up the night sky across Ipswich and needed 14 fire crews to bring it under control.

Mitchell Andrew Dewhirst, 18, pleaded guilty to one count of arson at a hearing at Ipswich District Court.

The court heard Dewhirst and a 13-year-old friend had gone to the workshops on the evening of September 26. After smashing some windows the pair made their way into the rail yards where they sniffed glue and lit a piece of paper on the ground.

Dewhirst made some "brief but ineffective steps to extinguish the fire" before they both fled.

But the flames rapidly took hold of three disused buildings next to the city's historic Workshops Rail Museum.

Despite most of the fire being contained to the three buildings,

flames came dangerously close to the museum itself.

Almost 50 firefighters were called to battle the blaze and North Ipswich residents were told to stay inside with their doors and windows shut.

The major concern was when fire crews on the scene discovered both buildings contained asbestos and advised Queensland Health.

The cost to clean up the blaze, including the removal of asbestos, was $200,000.

The buildings destroyed were disused engineering offices and administration blocks scheduled for demolition. They dated from the 1940s and were part of the original North Ipswich Railway Workshops but had been sold to a private owner six years ago.

Crown prosecutors accepted Dewhirst's actions were not malicious and said his behaviour had been that of "stupidity".

Dewhirst, who was 17 years old at the time, handed himself in to police and confessed.

He was released on bail and first appeared at Ipswich Magistrates Court on October 18. He has a criminal history for "unregulated high-risk activity".

Defence barrister Steve Kissick said Dewhirst thought the fire was out when he left and hadn't intended to start such a huge blaze. Mr Kissick noted there had been evidence of squatters living in the abandoned buildings.

Judge Deborah Richards adjourned the sentence for a pre-sentence report to be prepared on Dewhirst.

Dewhirst's 13-year-old co-accused was dealt with on March 14.

Firefighters who battled the blaze were praised in court for the "massive responsibility" of saving the museum without damage.

Topics:  arson, blaze, firefighters, inferno




Join the Community.

Get your local news, your way.

Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Morrison slates $200m for Ipswich Motorway upgrade

Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale is urging the Federal Government to complete the Ipswich Motorway upgrade between Darra and Rocklea. Looking east to Oxley from Harcourt Road, Darra. Photo: Claudia Baxter / The Queensland Times

Treasurer commits $200m to upgrade Darra to Rocklea motorway stretch

Budget 2016: Upper-middle Aussie will get the rewards

Smokers will be hit with hefty increases in taxes over the next four years.

Small businesses and big earners to get tax cuts

BUDGET 2016: Small business tax cuts cost us $9 billion

Australian Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison speaks at the despatch box during the delivery of the 2016-17 Federal Budget in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra,

It will cost the federal government $5.3 billion in lost revenue

Latest deals and offers

ACF take Minister to Court

ACF chief executive Kelly O'Shanassy

The Australian Conservation Foundation go to court to stop Carmichael mine.

Dash Cam: Roo takes on car

Kangaroo leaps car.

Kangaroo could have kept going, jumps car instead.

Man allegedly reaches 182kmh

A REDBANK Plains man has been charged for dangerous driving and a number of other serious offences after allegedly reaching speeds of 182kmh on the Ipswich Motorway.

A REDBANK Plains man has been charged for dangerous driving and a number of other...

Demand for acreage lots pushes up property prices

Property values in Cooroy have increased 25%

Property values jump in Cooroy and Peachester.

How a sacked real estate agent made $725k in four months

Agent is now under investigation by the industry watchdog

RBA warns of future apartment oversupply

Toowoomba: Crest Apartments and Burke & Wills, Ruthven Street ( view from Neil Street) Photo Bev Lacey / The Chronicle

RBA says oversupply of apartments poses risk to household finances