Occupants of several residential blocks in Sydney’s eastern suburbs remained out of their units tonight hours after the discovery of “potentially dangerous chemicals” in one of the buildings following a fire.

Bomb squad officers were called to a unit block on the corner of Edgecliff Road and Wallis Street in Woollahra shortly after firefighters discovered chemicals while extinguishing a blaze in one of the units about 7am (AEST) today.

The discovery raised fears of a home-made bomb and residents from the block and some neighbouring unit blocks have been evacuated until forensic examinations can determine the precise makeup of the chemicals.

Specialist resources were deployed, including the rescue and bomb disposal unit and were expected to remain at the crime scene until well into the night, police said.
Firefighters earlier pulled a 54-year-old man from the unit with minor burns and smoke inhalation.

He was placed under police guard at St Vincent’s Hospital and was expected to be released into police custody sometime later tonight.

Hospital spokesman David Faktor said the man’s condition was “satisfactory”.

He said the hospital had treated him according to contamination precautions.

“We used a decontamination area where the staff garment-up next to the ambulance bay and adhere to that protocol,” he told AAP.

Two ambulance staff who brought him in were also checked for contamination but they were cleared, he said.

Neighbours of the injured man, who was believed to be a supermarket worker, said they had often detected strange smells coming from the unit, Channel Seven reported.

It was not known whether the chemicals had caused the fire.

Inspector John Maricic, crime manager of Rose Bay Local Area Command, told reporters the fire was likely caused by an electrical fault.

He would not reveal whether the chemicals were explosives until forensic examinations were completed.

“[The chemicals] could be considered dangerous and hence we’ve evacuated the area.

“Obviously our concern to the safety of residents is of paramount importance and obviously we’ve put road closures in place to prevent any incidents before the examinations have been conducted.”

There was no one else on the premises at the time of the fire, police said, and there were reports the man’s partner was at work at the time.

The fire left one room of the fourth floor unit considerably damaged and smoke damaged surrounding units, police said.

He said that evacuated residents were being looked after.

“We’re obviously feeding (the residents) and looking after their welfare and obviously as soon as we can conduct the examination of the scene, the quicker we can get the residents back in,” he said.

“Hopefully today, but we’ve still got work to do.”

One woman who lived in the unit block of the fire, who did not wish to be named, saw the blaze about 7.30am (AEST) today.

“It was a big one, there was smoke everywhere,” she told AAP. “But fire brigades responded really quickly.”

Still dressed in her pyjamas, she had passed the day in a local cafe and talking to other residents in the street.

She said she didn’t really know the man that lived in the unit who had been hospitalised.

“I’ve passed him on the stairs a couple of times. I think he’s been here about seven years,” she said.

A male resident, who had also been evacuated and also did not wish to be named, said he didn’t know what to do with himself.

“They say it could be hours yet,” he said.