EXTENSIVE DAMAGE: An Anglican Op Shop volunteer is escorted by police through the scene of the fire at the shop.
EXTENSIVE DAMAGE: An Anglican Op Shop volunteer is escorted by police through the scene of the fire at the shop. Adam Hourigan

Suspicious fire hits Grafton op shop at worst time

POLICE are treating a fire which destroyed a section of the Anglican Op Shop in Grafton as suspicious.

The fire is believed to have started between midnight and 12.30am yesterday at the rear of the building, which is fenced off with a 2m chain mail fence and locked gate.

Shop staff said there may have been some books stored and bags of rags at the back of the shop which could have been used to start a fire.

The Dean of Grafton, the Very Reverend Donald Kirk, said the fire destroyed the "breezeway" at the back of the building and the op shop kitchen.

It also destroyed an air-conditioning unit attached to the neighbouring Edwards Hall. Rev Kirk said the unit exploded as fire brigade crews fought the blaze.

Brigade members told him thermal imaging revealed the fire had not got into the roof, but smoke had filled the building.

Anglican Diocese administrator Roger Millard estimated there was between $40,000 and $50,000 worth of stock in the building, which is insured for structural damage and its consequences.

"It's happened at a bad time for us," he said. "Because of the race carnival it's the busiest time of the year for us.

"We've been turning over more than $2000 a week."

Mr Millard said staff had been putting together a display of racing outfits for sale, but had not been able to assess the damage.

"The forensic police said the staff's washing machines are going to be busy in the next few days," he said.

Rev Kirk said the diocese would look at opening the op shop in Edwards Hall once the damage to stock had been assessed and the extent of the damage was known.

Detective Sergeant Graham Burke said it was early days in the investigation.

Anyone with information can contact Grafton detectives on 6642 0222 or Crimestoppers 1800 333 000.

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