FIERCE BLAZE: Fire tears through the double-storey building at the abandoned Neerkol Orphanage on Tuesday night.
FIERCE BLAZE: Fire tears through the double-storey building at the abandoned Neerkol Orphanage on Tuesday night. WIN NEWS

Blaze destroys girls dormitory at Neerkol Orphanage

A FEROCIOUS blaze which tore through a building at the notorious Neerkol Orphanage has rekindled harrowing memories for former residents of the church-run institution.

People posting on social media yesterday were damning of the orphanage, some sorry "the whole thing hadn't burnt to the ground" on Tuesday night.

Neerkol, which closed as an orphanage in 1978, was marred by allegations of sexual abuse and child mistreatment during the 1950s and '60s.

Police yesterday failed to rule out arson as the cause of the fire, which destroyed what was the girls dormitory.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Service crews were called at 9.30pm on Tuesday. They arrived on scene to find the double-storey building ablaze and grass fires threatening to engulf surrounding buildings.

The five urban and three rural crews battled the fire for several hours, using an aerial appliance to attack the flames from above.

They remained on scene until 3am yesterday, dampening down hot spots.

Detective Sergeant Steve Paskin from Rockhampton CIB said the damaged building had to be shored up before forensic officers could complete their examinations.

"No cause has been ascertained as yet but we are treating the fire as suspicious," Det Sgt Paskin said yesterday. "We are waiting on forensic investigations to be completed."

The top floor of the dormitory suffered the most damage, the roof all but gone and the remains a tangle of steel beams.

A 60m area around the building was burned black, the hot breeze stirring a blast of ash and dust.

Incredibly, the low-blocked brick nursery which stands just metres to the left escaped the flames, as did the small shelter shed just behind.

All the other buildings, bar the chapel, now stand derelict, windows smashed, doors hanging off hinges and brickwork starting to crumble.

Former resident Allan Reinikka said he was saddened by the loss of the historic building and the fact that the other buildings were being left to fall apart.

"Although it's got a bad reputation, for a lot of people it was their only home for a while," he said.

"For me, it wasn't all bad. Good friendships and memories were made there and it is sad to see it in the state it's in now."