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Firefighters make it snappy as huge crocodile watches house blaze

Firefighters tackling a blaze at a house in the tropical Australian city of Darwin have had to contend with the added distraction of a 13ft pet crocodile.

The fire destroyed the two-storey house in the suburb of Fannie Bay, but did not harm the huge reptile, a female called Albert, which lives in a backyard enclosure.

Firefighter Bill Gleeson said: "Thankfully, the crocodile didn't affect our operations at all.

"It's well contained and clearly unaffected by fire. He seemed quite happy to look at me as I was protecting the premises."

Wildlife ranger Tom Nichols said crocodiles are rare in the Darwin suburbs. The pet had been living at the property since before crocodiles became a protected species under federal law in the early 1970s.

Mr Gleeson said there was no-one in the house by the time firefighters arrived.

The fire appeared to have been caused by a clothes iron which was mistakenly left switched on, a government statement said.

The householder, Helen Haritos, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation a year ago that her crocodile hunter father, George Haritos, captured Albert in a Northern Territory river in 1958 for someone who requested a crocodile at a party, but no longer wanted one after sobering up.

Ms Haritos, 64, inherited Albert when her father died in 1992.

George Haritos and his three brothers became famous for accompanying the Duke of Edinburgh when he bagged a crocodile in Darwin Harbour in 1956.

Ms Haritos previously said of Albert: "It's not quite like my dog, but I do have a particular bond and care for the animal."

Authorities have yet to decide whether the crocodile will have to be moved.

Crocodile numbers have exploded across Australia's tropical north since they became protected after decades of hunting.

As saltwater crocodiles can live up to 70 years and grow throughout their lives - reaching up to 23ft in length - the proportion of large crocodiles is also rising.

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