Two teenage boys have been arrested over a large fire that destroyed an Adelaide Hills supermarket yesterday afternoon, causing shoppers and staff to evacuate.

Key points:

  • Two 14-year-old boys have been arrested over a fire that gutted a supermarket
  • About 100 firefighters were called to extinguish the blaze
  • The fire caused at least $25m damage 

South Australian police said the boys, both aged 14, from Heathfield and Bridgewater will be charged with arson after a blaze broke out inside the Woolworths store in Stirling.

Country Fire Service (CFS) and Metropolitan crews were called to reports of smoke coming from inside the store on Mount Barker Road just after 2pm.

About 100 firefighters spent several hours working to control the fire that also damaged multiple adjoining businesses.

Authorities initially said the damage bill was expected to be around $15 million, but revised it to be in excess of $25 million.

No-one was injured.

The blaze gutted the Woolworths store at Stirling on Sunday.(Supplied: CFS)

The fire caused thick, acrid smoke to blanket the town resulting in road closures.

Mount Barker Road reopened to traffic last night, however, there were still speed restrictions in place as well as a cordoned-off area around the shopping complex.

Exact cause still unknown

Executive director of operations with the CFS Cameron Devey said there were reports that aerosol canisters were exploding before they arrived. 

Fire Cause Investigators made an initial assessment of the area, but will return to the scene today to determine the exact cause.

About 100 firefighters contained the blaze.(Supplied: CFS)

Mr Devey praised the swift response carried out by the volunteer firefighters. 

“When they first arrived they made every effort to get inside but that fire was just too hot to do anything with so they went defensive and fought the fire from outside,” he said. 

“There will be smoke damage to neighbouring business, there could be water damage and the saves were incredible because that fire could have been so much worse.

“Our volunteer firefighters are part of the community and our hearts go out to everybody today who won’t be turning up to work to businesses that are impacted.”

Stirling Variety Meats owner Giselle Pfitzner said it was “horrible” to see her butcher shop caught up in the fire. 

“We were met with the whole complex ablaze … it looked like a bomb had gone off,” Ms Pfitzner said.

Chris and Giselle Pfitzner have owned the local butcher shop for nearly 20 years. (ABC News: Ben Pettitt)

“Our side of the shopping mall looks from the photo, it looks like they’re still in tact, but to what extent the damage is with water and smoke.

“We’re not really too sure what the extent of the damage is yet … it’s a bit devastating.” 

Ms Pfitzner said she and her husband had owned the business for almost 20 years, and employed up to 10 staff. 

“We’ll have to contact the insurance brokers but because we don’t have access to the complex we don’t know where our business stands right now,” she said. 

“We really need to get access as soon as possible because of all our meat going off.”

The CFS says the damage bill is expected to exceed $25m.(Supplied: CFS)

Support for local traders

Adelaide Hills Council Mayor Jan-Claire Wisdom said she had been in contact with the Stirling Business Association to offer support to local traders impacted by the fire. 

“This is very much the heart of this particular community in Stirling but we will help them and we will rebuild and people are very good at supporting each other here,” Ms Wisdom said.

Ms Wisdom said she had spoken to representatives about the possibility of setting up pop-up shops for small businesses in the lead-up to the busy Christmas trading period.

Ms Wisdom says the council will work to support local business owners.(ABC News: Anisha Pillarisetty)

“It will be a bit like a caravan, it will depend on what a particular business owner wants and we will help try install them,” she said. 

“There’s a number of places around Stirling where we could do that … we can make it look a bit attractive, so that they can be welcoming places.”

Police said the two boys would be granted bail to appear at the Mount Barker Youth Court in December. 

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