Stolen taps hinder firefighters
Coffs Harbour firefighters were called to Tim's Surf and Turf on Park Beach Road around 7.30pm on Saturday night to find a palm tree blazing at the front of the restaurant.
Captain David Spagnolo said the fire from the tree had spread to the roof and into the building, causing thousands of dollars of damage inside the closed restaurant.
While firefighters had the blaze under control in minutes, it would have been a different story if thieves hadn't stolen the half a dozen copper taps dotting the outside of the restaurant.
A witness to the fire said a number of people from the nearby hotels and flats rushed outside to put the blaze out, using fire hoses from inside the restaurant.
But once they'd hooked up the hoses and turned on the water, nothing happened.
"There was water shooting out of all the taps because someone had taken all the copper tap fittings from outside the building," the witness, who wished to remain anonymous, said.
"We could have put the fire out before the firies got there but there was no pressure.
"The water was shooting out everywhere except the fire hoses.
"I used to have one out front of my place until someone broke it off," the witness said.
The Park Beach man, who used to be a volunteer fireman in New Zealand, said it was lucky the fire was a slow burn otherwise it could have taken the whole building and spread.
"It's just ridiculous - if people are stealing taps, a situation like this puts someone in danger," he said.
"The fire could have been a disaster."
Copper has become a lucrative commodity for thieves of late, given the significant increase in copper prices globally, and while companies such as Country Energy are prime targets due to being large users of copper, theft of copper taps is not unheard of.
Tim's Surf and Turf is believed to have been a 30-year-old building and has been closed for a number of years.