8 police officers who risked their lives by entering a burning building in Wentworthville, New South Wales (NSW), Australia on Oct. 8, 2013 to help people who were trapped inside have been praised as heroes for their brave act. However, the man they saved, 36-year-old Jomaa Market store owner Chadi Jomaa, could be the one who started the fire in the first place.
Jomaa's relatives claim that he had been waiting for a bread delivery when the store exploded. A wall collapsed on top of him, breaking his legs and leaving him trapped.
2 police officers from Holroyd, NSW were the first to arrive on the scene, bravely rushing forth into the fire to free him.
Moments later, firefighters and five other policemen arrived to help, and Jomaa was freed.
He is now recuperating at Westmead Hospital in Westmead, NSW.
"He's in a lot of pain, crying. Everybody loves him." a relative said outside Westmead Hospital.
But, security footage shows Jomaa, a father of six, was carrying petrol cans from the BP service station across the road into his shop on Oct. 7, 2013. He had allegedly bought 10 litres of petrol. He was also seen throwing lit matches before the explosion of the building, including the adjoining residential block. He had earlier been seen removing equipment from his store.
Bomb-sniffing dogs that went through the scene reportedly detected traces of petrol.
Detectives investigating the fire will speak to him once he has recovered from his injuries.
The heroic police officers were commended by senior police for their valiant efforts.
Merrylands Police Inspector Adam Phillips said "officers, who spotted the fire on their rounds, ran into the building without protective gear to try to save a 36-year-old buried in the rubble."
"As they drove past, there was a loud explosion," he told the ABC.
"They've come back and found a male in the rubble up past his waist with a large number of explosions going on within the building."
North West Metropolitan Region Commander, Assistant Commissioner Denis Clifford also praised the brave officers who entered and re-entered the building to reach Jomaa.
"As far as the actions of police are concerned, it was nothing short of heroic," Clifford said.
"I've got no doubt had they not have done that, we could have had a fatality on our hands."
According to Clifford, police were treating the fire as suspicious and were waiting to interview a person of interest.
"Shops don't blow up by themselves. All indications are is it's a suspicious fire and we are treating it as an arson," Inspector Phillips said.
Read more on Fire related stories:
New South Wales Supermarket Explosion (Click here)
Blaze Engulfs Aussie Cricket Player's Home (Click here)
Extreme Fire Danger Warning in New South Wales on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013 (Click here)
To contact the editor, e-mail: