Multiple fire crews battled to extinguish a blaze at the once legendary Commercial Hotel of Yass, resulting in the pub’s destruction and a neighbour arrested.

Crews from Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) battled for more than five hours to extinguish the fire that engulfed the formerly popular pub in the NSW Southern Tablelands.

Built during the 1840s, the two-storey Commercial Hotel on Comur Street secured its first liquor licence in 1850. In its heyday it was the focus of local events, carrying a lasting legacy in the community.

Image: Tooth and Company collections Australian National University Archives

But in 2005 it closed its doors, and left to decay had reportedly become something of an eyesore in town over recent years.

In 2021 it was purchased by developers Andrew Turnbull and Anthony Barrie, from Canberra, who secured approval from Yass Valley Council for extensive renovations to the old building.

Although not heritage listed, the new owners said they valued the hotel’s heritage and character, and planned to use and source period materials in the restoration, eventually reopening as a family-friendly pub.

Yet to see reopening day, emergency services responded to reports of a fire shortly before 2am Monday morning.

The fire was reportedly spreading quickly throughout the 160-year-old structure, and first responders called for support, leading to 10 units and 30 personnel from the NSW Rural Fire Service, and fire and rescue crews from NSW and the ACT.

The ferocity of the blaze prompted call for a specialist FRNSW aerial pumping truck, to attack from above as well as from the ground, as it threatened to spread to adjoining properties, including a carpet store.

FRNSW said there was “little left” of the historic building by the time it was extinguished, but while power outages impacted some surrounding businesses damage was contained to the Hotel itself.

No injuries were reported, but authorities established an exclusion zone out of concern over further structural collapse.

An investigation immediately began into the cause, which was being treated as suspicious.

Only 12 hours after services were called, a 20-year-old man living also on Comur Street was arrested. He was charged with property damage by fire over $15k and refused bail.

On Tuesday he appeared before Goulburn Local Court, where he did not enter a plea. His defence requested a mental health assessment, which was granted.

Magistrate Geraldine Beattie noted that depending on the outcome of the assessment, he may return to the court to face the charges.

Anyone with further information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers or Yass Police.

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