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This morning about i 40 a.m. the residents of the Borough were alarmed by the ringing of the fire bell and whistling from the engine shed, and in looking out it was soon seen that a serious conflagration had broken out in the centre of the town. The exact position of the burning was very soon ascertained, as the flames in a few minutes leapt high in the air, and in a very short time two buildings were totally consumed. On arrival at the scene of the fire it was found that the boarding-house known as the Central Temperance Hotel, kept by Mr Watts, and the coach factory belonging to Messrs Baker and Brown, were both doomed to destruction by the devouring element, and that the greatest possible exertions were necessary to. protect the buildings adjacent from being burnt. Through the great exertions of many willing hands the fire was confined to the two buildings already named, which adjoined each other, and although a portion ot the County Council premises on the opposite side of the street caught fire in several places, as also the outbuildings ot Mr Hicks, baker, Mr Cavanagh, blacksmith, and others, a plentitul supply of water by means of buckets kept the fire from spreading any further. The, fire brigade arrived on the scene shortly after the alarm was given, but a great deal of time was lost in obtaining a supply of water owing to the side channels leading from East street to the belt having been slopped to allow of the formation of the outfall drain, so that when the water was turned into Havelock street, all the light drift matter, which had accumulated during the late nor’-west winds, was carried into the hole dug for the suction hose and choked the engine. The brigade has frequently impressed upon the Borough Council the imperative necessity for providing some means of obtaining a sufficient depth of water to allow of floating debris , such as straw,

paper, &c., passing over the suction hose, but so far without avail. However, we hope that before another disaster occurs, something will be done in the matter.

The fire originated in the back kitchen of the Central Temperance Hotel, and was first discovered by a lodger, named Lawry, who Was stopping in the house last night. Mr Lawry retired to bed about 11 o’clock, when, to bis knowledge, everything was all right in and about the premises. The servant retired about an hour afterwards, and she states that everything was perfectly safe then. Mr Lawry was awakened by the noise of fire and the smoke, and immediately roused the servant and children and two of the lodgers, but was unsuccessful in his efforts to awaken another lodger named Thomas Daly, who had been intoxicated the previous night. While carrying the children to Butler’s Hotel, where they were kindly cared for, Mr Lawry informed Constable Neill of the man being left in the burning building. Hearing this Constable Neill rushed upstairs, and only succeeded in saving Daly by pulling him through the window, as. it was impossible to get back by the staircase owing to the flames, which by this time had spread all over the building. Daly was severely cut and bruised by his hurried exit, but as he has to thank the constable for saving his life he will probably think very little of his minor injuries. A large number of persons were engaged in taking out what carriages and wheelwright’s stock they could from Baker and Brown’s establishment, but succeeded in saving only a small amount, so quickly had the fire spread from one building to the other. It was now seen that the houses in rear of these buildings were in great danger of catching, and strenuous efforts, which, happily, were successful, were made to prevent the spread of the fire in this direction. Continuous streams of water were poured on Mr Davidson’s (fruiterer’s) house, and on other places which had become ignited. The private hose supplied by Mr R. W. Shearman, of the Somerset Hotel, did good service, and was the means of preventing further danger in this quarter. Indeed, at one time it was thought impossible to save either Mr Hicks’ or Mr Davidson’s houses, and if the fire had spread to them, it is hard to say where it would have ended. Luckily, very little wind was blowing at the time, or very great damage must have been done to the various surrounding buildings, and very great loss the immediate result. The Fire Brigade and Fire Police worked well, and all deserve the greatest praise for their untiring efforts to save property.

Mr Watts, the lessee of the Central Temperance Hotel, was absent with his wife at Chertsey, attending a concert there, and had left their two children at home in charge of the servant. We regret to hear that their loss is a severe one, as none of the effects were saved. The furniture belonged to Messrs Friedlander Bros., and the building to Mr James Baker, both of which were insured. Messrs Baker and Brown arc also considerable losers, as their valuable stock was not insured. It is supposed the fire originated from a stove in the kitchen. Mr Mainwaring’s furniture was all removed from his dwelling in a short time, but must have been considerably damaged. None of it was insured. The following are the insurances : Baker and Brown, Laso in the South British; stock uninsured. Central Temperance Hotel, L3OO in South British, L3OO in the Standard; and the furniture, L2OO in , the Union office. Mr Watts is a heavy loser, as none of his private effects were saved and were uninsured. Messrs Baker and Brown estimate their lost at about L 35 0 .

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Bibliographic details

FIRE., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 343, 13 May 1881

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FIRE. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 343, 13 May 1881