UPDATE 2.20pm:

FOLLOWING forensic examination of the house that caught alight on Barney St last night, police have declared a crime scene and are treating the fire as suspicious.

Detective Senior Sergeant Luke Peachey from Gladstone CIB said there had been fears that someone was inside the house but after a sweep of the house it was declared the house was vacant.

The last listed occupant of the house is currently serving time for drug offences and it's understood the Department of Housing house was in a 'changeover period'.

 

There was no evidence of drug paraphernalia found inside the house.

"Police are following up all leads however at this stage we were unable to identify any person at the scene," Det Sen Srg Peachey said.

"[There was] a certain amount of material in the house [and] it would appear it was in the process of being moved."

 

Det Sen Srg Peachey urged anyone with information to come forward and contact Gladstone police or crime stoppers on 1800333000.

1.45pm: 

IN the moments before the house on Barney St went up in flames, Janet Saggus was sitting in her lounge room watching a television documentary on earthquakes.

But before she could settle into her recliner chair to watch the program around 9.40pm she heard one "massive" explosion.

"I flew up off the chair and I walked out and all of a sudden I could smell this plastic smell," Mrs Saggus said.

"It wasn't like a car back firing or gunshots…it was an actual explosion like you see on TV. I thought the roof had come off."

Mrs Saggus called the police and walked up to the end of her driveway, which runs parallel to the burnt out house, and it was then she heard another explosion.

"We could hear people in there running around," she said.

"I was getting a bit panicky [and] I was thinking when is this going to go up."

Although Mrs Saggus couldn't see any flames to begin with, she said all of sudden the "flames just took off".

"There was a lot of glass that was smashing…it could be from the second explosion," she said.

 

It's understood the Department of Housing house was not occupied at the time and according to Mrs Saggus had been unoccupied for about three weeks, however she thought there had been people coming and going from the property in that time.

12.30pm:

REGIONAL Fire investigator Graham Smith carried out inspections on the Barney St house before midday and said the fire was being treated as suspicious.

He believes the fire started in the lounge room and possibly in one of the lounge chairs.

"We didn't find any trace of accelerants," Mr Smith said.

"The lounge room is very badly damaged [and] uninhabitable at the moment.

"[The fire] definitely originated in the lounge room area [and] possibly on one of the lounge chairs there," he said.

Mr Smith said the house was unsecured at the time of the fire.

 

Police investigations are continuing. 

EARLIER:

A FEW neighbours filtered onto the street late last night to watch Gladstone firefighters put out a blaze that engulfed a house at 101 Barney St, Barney Point.

One neighbour, who not want to be named but spoke as he puffed on a few cigarettes, said he believed the address was a notorious drug den and known disparagingly as "The Ice House".

Firefighters arrive on scene with
Firefighters arrive on scene with "The Ice House" under fire. Janet Saggus

It's understood the house had been officially unoccupied for a month but that there was a good possibility squatters had taken up residence.

Around 10pm Janet Saggus had been sitting on her balcony, which overlooks the house, when she heard two loud explosions.

"I heard the first massive explosion which scared the living daylights out of me," she said.

"And then there was another explosion. I came out the front and could see flames coming out of the front of the house."

Immediately thereafter Mrs Saggus called the police and waited outside the house with another onlooker who said he was tossing up whether to enter the house to save whoever was inside.

"I could hear footsteps inside the house and so I thought someone was in there," Mrs Saggus said.

"It was a flip of the coin whether or not I go in," the onlooker said.

Mrs Saggus believed whoever was in the house must have fled and into another vacant house where she thought more squatters were living.

Another man, who did not want to be named, said problems in that area had been going on for the last two years.

"They never do anything about it," he said. "This is the spot where if you want ice you come here…if you call it 'The Ice House' everyone here will know what you're talking about."

Standing around while 14 firefighters went about their work, the smell of burnt plastic filtered out of the house.

Gladstone Station Officer Dale Iwanick said when he and his crew arrived on scene fire and flames were coming out the front windows and underneath the eaves of the fibro house.

"On entry I had a BA (breathing apparatus) crew [who] went internal," Mr Iwanick said.

"It was very heavily smoke logged with big black smoke and flames. They were able to contain the fire to the front of the house while conducting a primary search to the front of the building."

On arrival fire fighters understood people were inside the house but after a search of the property no one was located inside.

Just last month another vacant house was started under suspicious circumstances on O'Connell St at Barney Point.



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