UPDATE: Monday 1.15pm
Police are treating the fire at Father Riley’s Op Shop as suspicious and are appealing for witnesses to come forward.
Central Hunter police were told two males were seen in the area at the time of the fire on Sunday night.
Police are continuing to investigate the cause of the fire.
Anyone with information is urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
UPDATE: Monday 9.55am
Central Hunter police conducted an examination of the scene at Father Riley’s Op Shop on Monday morning.
Police are investigating whether or not the fire was deliberately lit.
Seven fire trucks, two HAZMAT units, an aerial appliance and police attended a fire on High Street opposite Maitland City Hall on Sunday night.
Firefighters worked to contain a fire at Father Chris Riley’s Op Shop after a 000 call was placed at 10pm by Morpeth’s Sarah Worthington.
“I was just going to drop some stuff off at Father Riley’s,” Ms Worthington said.
“I saw the flames.”
Ms Worthington said she dialled for help and ran down Sun Street to wake residents in an apartment.
By the time she returned to the op shop, the fire had grown.
“The flames – they were above my head and coming out the air grates,” she said.
“It was spinning me out, how quickly it was spreading, and the way the smoke was filling up the front of the building.”
Ms Worthington said the fire had started in piles of donated items around the back of the op shop and had spread into the roof of Father Riley’s and neighbouring store Paraphernalia.
Daniel Saunders, who lives on Bourke Street, said he heard what sounded like an explosion around 9.30pm.
“I thougnt it was fireworks,” Mr Saunders said.
A firefighter at the scene said the gunshot-type sound Mr Saunders described was most likely due to pressure building up as the fire escalated.
The street was cordoned off while emergency services personnel worked and onlookers were moved back several hundred metres after power lines were seen arcing.
Fire crews came from Branxton, Greta, Kurri Kurri, Morpeth, Rutherford, East Maitland and Maitland.