Communications blackout after suspicious fire at Tumut hub

Black smoke billows out of the Telstra building in Tumut as fire crews attend to a fire on Friday afternoon.

A fire at Tumut’s Telstra exchange building on Friday afternoon has plunged the town into communications darkness.

Police are treating the blaze as suspicious.

Fire-fighters were called to the telecommunications hub in the centre of town at about 3pm to find black smoke billowing out of the roof.

Fire-fighters were able to fairly quickly bring the blaze under control, but power was cut to the building and in the process, much of the town’s communications services were also cut.

The building acts as a transmission point for the town’s NBN services, taking out both ‘landline’ phones and internet, as well as mobile services for Telstra. Mobile services for other carriers are understood to be unaffected.

While firefighters worked to contain the blaze, police were called to another incident on the corner of Quandong Avenue and Lambie Street, where there was allegedly an attempt to set a number of cars on fire.

Soon after, a Tumut man was taken into custody on Adelong Road, and he is assisting police with their inquiries.

Tumut Inspector Stephen Radford has urged any witnesses to the fires, either in Fuller Street or Quandong Avenue, to come forward with information.

The communications blackout has impacted both residents and businesses. Bank-feeds were cut, taking out ATMs, while business EFTPOS was also cut. That left residents with no way to get cash, and no way to pay by card.

It’s uncertain when telecommunications will be restored, with the first step to be restoring power to the Telstra building safely, before the extent of the damage can be assessed.