The design is notable for being the first Victorian house to be built in the Shingle style, a North American technique that used organic materials in a way that elevated their natural qualities.
The MFB had 10 trucks at the property at the fire’s peak and kept crews on scene through the morning to extinguish hot spots. There was negligible damage to neighbouring properties, the MFB said.
Spurling House had previously been damaged by fire in 2015 and had fallen into disrepair.
Water from those fire-fighting efforts and exposure had also allowed infestation from fungus or mould. More than $1.5 million in insurance was paid in 2016.
Heritage Victoria also issued two repair orders to the house’s owner.
In February last year, the owner argued demolition was the only way to make the site safe and remove risks of cross-contamination and allergens.
The request was refused by Heritage Victoria, which believed the contamination issues could be fixed.
The Heritage Council reviewed and upheld the decision in December last year, noting the cultural significance of a place on the Victorian Heritage Register was “ineradicably lost” once demolished.
While accepting it was uninhabitable and that “extensive and costly remediation works would have to be undertaken,” the committee, in a majority decision, believed it could be done.
The Saturday morning blaze produced so much smoke that the MFB issued a community advice message for Brighton.
“Firefighters believe the incident may have started under suspicious circumstances, and the scene has been handed to Victoria Police for further investigation,” the MFB said in a statement.
Police would not say on Saturday afternoon if anyone had been questioned over the fire.
Anyone with information is urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Zach is a reporter at The Age. Got a story? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org