Home gutted in minutes

A 26-YEAR-old woman was charged with arson yesterday after allegedly starting a fire that destroyed her mother's North Rockhampton home.

It's alleged the woman, who was the only occupant at the time, set fire to the Rhodes Street house about 8.30am yesterday.

Nearby residents enjoying a Sunday morning sleep-in were woken by screams and the smell of smoke and ventured outside to find the house consumed by flames.

They reported seeing black smoke billowing from under the weatherboard house and watched helplessly as the fire spread across the entire structure within minutes.

"I looked outside and saw the fire ... by the time I got downstairs the whole place was alight,'' witness Amy Gomersall said.

"Someone was running down the street screaming.''

Nearby resident Sharon Sleaford was sitting down to breakfast when she was distracted by the commotion outside. "One minute the flames were underneath the house, the next the top of the house was alight.

"It only took about five minutes for it all to get ignited,'' she said.

She said the space underneath the house was packed full of belongings at the time of the blaze.

"You couldn't even walk under the house there was so much stuff, it was absolutely full.''

By the time the blaze was under control, around 9.30am, the house was all but completely destroyed.

The fire also threatened a neighbouring residence, damaging one side of the house and setting fire to curtains, before the valiant efforts of fire crews stopped the blaze from spreading.

It's believed the woman's 52-year-old mother had been out of town for the past three months caring for a sick relative in Brisbane.

The accused was admitted to the Rockhampton Mental Health Unit yesterday afternoon and has been issued with a notice to appear in Rockhampton Magistrates Court on March 27.

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