AN unoccupied single-storey house in Boultwood Street was the scene of the first drama just after 6pm when the blaze gutted a room.
A neighbour, who identified himself as Andrew, was watching a movie when he could smell smoke.
He looked out the front and saw smoke billowing from the smashed windows of the house, which has been left vacant for up to three years.
"We were wetting down our fence because we were concerned about our units," Andrew said.
"That house has a lot of rubbish around it and the grass is growing as high as the roof. It's a real fire hazard.
"People are walking in and out of there all the time and kids have found syringes in there. "We know druggies have been using it and banging holes in the walls. The police told me they would be contacting the council to have the place demolished."
Another resident said the house made the rest of the street look ugly and that the owners didn't seem to care.
Park Beach Road...
ANOTHER house left vacant for two years in nearby Park Beach Road was the next target about 8pm when fire destroyed three rooms.
Neighbour Daphne Goodall heard what she thought were doors banging and later realised fire had taken hold in the house.
"We were worried because the wind was blowing badly. We're all elderly along here," Mrs Goodall said.
"The whole street was alive with spectators and people taking photos. It caused some excitement around here.
"We've had squatters in there camping in tin sheds and in the house and keeping us awake at night. The night before there were squatters apparently in there.
"Mesh was put up around the outside of the house before Christmas to keep them out, and we reckon they probably lit it in protest.
"We've been told the house is to be demolished after Christmas, but I don't know how the council could let it stand there for so long.
"I've heard that the stove and toilet have been pulled out and needles found in there."
Another resident, Allan, was cooking dinner when the fire broke out and he rang 000.
"That place has been full of derelicts and druggies who have left their needles behind. Squatters have taken over since it's been vacated," Allan said.
...and then a car
A WOMAN in Wills Street in Coffs Harbour's west is counting the cost of a fire which destroyed the rear of her Magna about 10.30pm.
She was roused from her sleep by her girlfriend and saw the fire take hold.
It appears the fire may have started in clothes and bedding left on the footpath for collection and quickly spread to the car parked nearby. The woman told The Coffs Coast Advocate she had received threats.
Anyone who can help with the investigation is urged to contact Coffs Harbour detectives on 6652 0299.
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