THE fire and smoke hell firefighting crews faced at the 2012 Greenfields blaze, and a lack of easy access to the seat of the intense fire, meant businesses could not be saved.
Queensland Fire and Rescue Service Mackay senior officer Darren Gracy said he had to quickly make the decision to focus firefighting efforts on successfully saving Sam's Warehouse and not the other businesses.
Giving evidence at the District Court trial of a youth who has now been acquitted of arson over the multi-million dollar blaze, Mr Gracy revealed the daunting scene crews faced that November afternoon.
He said there were no smoke extractors and thick smoke was being drawn into the building. Hot gases at floor level made it dangerous.
"Smoke was getting sucked inside like a vacuum cleaner. It means there was a high fuel load," he said.
Mr Gracy said crews had no success in using a water spray pattern to try to raise the smoke up in an attempt to reduce the gases inside.
"The decision was made by me to be defensive and not send anyone in," he said.
"It had cement walls supported by steel structures to hold the slabs in place. There was already movement of the slabs."
Mr Gracy said their efforts were made harder because of 12mm thick plywood placed over all windows. So, with nowhere to go, the gases became superheated and it was not until 40 minutes after his arrival that he first saw the actual fire. "It was a very rapid fire ... it came down quickly and sections fell inwards, some fell outwards."
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