The heritage-listed Town of Claremont chambers and library building was devastated last night by a fire which caused more than $5 million damage.
Firefighters are yet to pinpoint the cause of the blaze, which started in the roof of the library, at the southern end of the building.
It rapidly moved through the building and engulfed the council chambers and offices.
Town of Claremont chief executive Stephen Goode, who was at the scene, said the fire was a community tragedy.
GALLERY: History turns to ash
He said as well as council records, the building contained many irreplaceable items including archival material dating back to 1898.
“In my 30 years in this job I’ve never confronted anything like this,” Mr Goode said.
Firefighters were called to the scene about 7pm.
Fire and Emergency Services Authority incident controller Peter Jones said because the roof was ablaze, it was too dangerous for firefighters to enter the building in case of collapse.
“We have therefore had to fight it all from outside,” Mr Jones said.
Around 50 firefighters were called to the scene and about 25 were expected to remain there until this morning.
Police closed Stirling Highway in both directions at the intersection of Bay View Terrace last night but reopened city-bound traffic earlier this morning while Fremantle-bound traffic will continue to be diverted.
Passers-by looked on in shock as windows shattered and flames engulfed the roof.
Sue, a 60-year-old local resident, said it was a sad day for the community. “It’s such a waste and loss for the community, and such a loss in terms of history,” she said.
“I remember taking my children and now grandchildren to the library and now they won’t have this place to come to,” she said.
Deputy mayor Paul Kelly also at the scene last night, said he feared that all administrative records, building plans, development applications and information stored on computers had been lost.
Mr Jones said firefighters would try to salvage what they could.
The council precinct was given permanent heritage listing in 2004.
The Heritage Council said the complex was “comparatively rare” as a local government administration hub which originated in the 19th century and was partly reconstructed and refurbished in 1930s Art Deco style.
Meanwhile, the Claremont Council website has fallen victim to a group of hackers in the aftermath of the blaze.
Visitors to the site were this morning greeted by a message from a group of hackers called the Ashiyane Digital Security Team, including names such as PrinceofHacking and Satanic2000.
Administrators have since taken the site down while they fix the issues.