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EXTENSIVE FIRE IN CHRISTCHURCH.

Christehureh has had another ominous warning A lire has swept away in about three hours a large block of buildings, and iC is only a mutter for aetonishmei.fc and great thankfulness that the damage done was no* tenfold greater. About S o'clock or a little after a column of smoke w &s observed rising apparently from the back premises of the buildings occupied by Messrs Mai; on and lorlesse, ia Colomloofrcer, and befor;

there was time to enquire into the cause or even thoroughly to realise whether the smoke arose from any extraordinary circumstance, the whole of the back premises were found to be in flames. Two I blocks of buildings were in dauger— one on the west, the square block surrounded on the four sides by Hereford-street, Colombo-street, Cashel-street, and the river Avon ; the other on the east, comprising the triangle lying between High-street, Cashel-street, and Colombo-street. In the west block the houses are connected in a continuous row from tho corner of Hereford-street and Colombo-street, along Colombostreet, and down Cashel-street to the river. The triangle on the other side of Colombo-street is one compact mass of houses occupying about three quarters of an acre. The lire commenced as we hare said, in the back premises of the west side of Colombo-street. The night was bright and clear, and, fortunately, was almost perfectly still, only a light air blowing from tho west, and then veering into the south-west. In a m iuute or two after the alarm was given the No. 1 Engine was on the ground, and commenced placing on the (lames, which by that time had wrapped the whole of Messrs. Matson and Torlesse's offices, and were breaking into Mr. Ayers' hair-cutting rooms. This engine took its supply of water from the artesian well lately dug, facing MrRnddenklau's Hotel, immediately in front of tlic fire. This well is supplying about GO gallons a minute, but there being no" reservoir to retain the water, a large zinc case was procured aud placed under the spout but the engine emptied it every four minutes, and a delay of two or three minutes had to take place before the reservoir., was filled again. No. 2 Engine, a much more powerful one, which was on the ground immediately after, was more fortunate in its supply of water. Getting the suction-hose into the river and bringing it up Hereford-street it was able to play with continued force the whole of the night, though the length of the hose only permitted it to operate on the corner and rear of the buildings. The mass of stables and other outhouses however extended so far to the rear as to endanger tho communication of the fire to the New South Wales Bank, in Herefordstreet, and the Press office, in Cashel-street, even if the fire could be checked by the line of buildings fronting on the street. It was very soon found that all attempts to stop the progress of the lire iv a block of houses entirely composed of wood, would be utter! v fruitless, and that it could only be checked by an entire destruction of those buildings which could be mo3t readily removed. Order 3 wero accordingly given to proceed to the work of demolition. The lire had now embraced, to the eastward of its origin, Mr. Brook's, the chemist's shop, and Messrs. Axup, Bell, and Stewart (late Miss Skillieorn's), and to the west, Mr. Urquhart's (lato Asmussen's), watchmaker and jeweller. To save Mr. Morton's (late Hart and Lodge's), was plainly impossible, so the working of pulling down the houses was commenced beyond the latter house. Axes were called into requisition, and ropes attached, and building after | building was speedily reduced to ruins, and the debris hauled bodily into the street, and the rubbish cleared away and removed further down the street by the bystanders. By these means in the space of two hours a lane was cut completely round the fire ; and though, the whole thing seemed to be done without any directing mind and in the midst of the utmost confusion, yet an inspection of the ground in the morning shewed that it, had been as effectually managed as if a body of sappers and miners had been at work under the orders of a recognised staff of officers. All such efforts would indeed have been useless had there been a brisk breeze blowing in one direction or the other, but, providentially as we have said, the night was unusually still, and the flames for the most part rose perpendicularly to the sky, or were carried by the gentle air from the southwest towards the corner of Colombo Street and Hereford Street, where the open space of Cathedral Squaro presented no food for the flames. But what might have happened had a wind set in in that direction, was sufficiently indicated by the fact that the burning flakes were carried as far as the buildings on the east of Cathedral Square, ! occasioning considerable anxiety for the safety of j Bonuington's Music Room and the adjacent store of Messrs. Symington and the offices of Deßourbel and Co. How it happened that the Triangle was saved it is not easy even now to perceive. The Fire Brigade No. 1 Engine fiuding that all efforts to stay tho fire on the west side of the street were unavailing, next wisely directed their whole efforts to save the bindings opposite. The hose was carried up to the top of the corner house and the roofs all around were deluged with water The heat from the burning houses opposite was at one time so great that the corner house of the Triangle actually caught fire, but the close neighbourhood of the nozzle of the hose immediately extinguished it, and when it is considered what an amount of property is held in that block of buddings, it is impossible to give too much credit to the skill and exertions of the Brigade, to whom alone it is owing that the whole of that block was saved. The hose of the engine was scorched, and a part spoiled for further use.

It has been the remark upon former occasions that the bystanders do not sufficiently interest themselvesto lend the assistance requiredat ilres. The same remark maybe repeated now, but whilst there was adisincliratiou on the part of some to lend a hand, there were a very considerable number who worked with amazing energy and effect, and of the bystanders it seemed to us that it was rather from not knowing what to do than from any real disinclination to assist, that they stood with their hands iv their pockets. At the same time tho fire was so eueetually and speedily got under that there is little cause to complain. If there were any proper organization of the public there would bo no difficulty whatever in getting assistance. Where the shoe pinches most is in the want of volunteers to pump the engine. The work falls too heavily upon tho more public spirited and energetic few. The following is a list of the houses, burnt or destroyed : — Messrs. Axuu, Stewart and Bell, drapers. Mr. Brooke, chemist and druggist. Mr. Ayers, hair cutter and City baths. Messrs. Matson and Torlesse's offices. Mr. Urquhart, watchmaker and jeweller, (late AsmiisseiVs.) Dr. Cooper, offices in the first floor of the above. Mr. Morton, unoccupied, (late Hart and Lodge) Mr. Bloom, The Beehive, grocer. Mr. Green, butcher.

Mr. Fuller, shoemaker. Mr. Wheeler, photographist, Mr. Fuller, butcher.

Mr. Bluudell, watchmaker and jeweller.

Messrs. Axuj>, Stewart and Bell, managed to clean out the greatest part of their stock, and wo understand the watches and jewellery were also mostly saved. But iv the smaller shops a good deal of property was lost or destroyed. Several of the houses were very small wooden tenements, and we should uot j put down the whole valuo of the buildings at above £5000. What the value of tho property destroyed may be it is impossible to say, but an estimate of £15,000 would probably not bo very far from the mark. We have been able to hear of insurances in the Liverpool, Northern, Australian, and New Zealand Offices to the of abovo £5000; chiefly by Messrs. Axup Stewart and Bell, MrBrooke, Mr. Avers, and Messrs. Matson and Torlesse. Some other insurances have lapsed. Tho losses will wo fear fall most heavily on those who can least afford it, but the wholo amount may be regarded as very small, considering the density of the buildings, tho intlammable nature of the materials of which they are built, and the largo amount of property iv tho immediate neighborhood. His Honor tho Superintendent and the Provincial Secretary were on the ground, and most of tho principal inhabitants of Christchureh wero working as men ought to work on such occasions. The police wero admirably handled, and though some attempts at plunder were made, the arrest of four light lingered gentry, who were lodged in the lock-up» afforded a significant hint that it was a dangerous game to play at. With tho Fire Brigade only one fault cau be found —that they ore too few in number. Considering that they are a body of volunteers and get no remuueration for their services, it really docs seem most discreditable to Christchurch that so heavy a burden should be laid on the shoulders of so few public spirited men. Nothing could surpass their efficiency. Though the supply of water was better than in most fires that are likely to occur, still the want of water is the one fact that forces itself on the mind as the great waut and the great danger of Christchurch. Instead of two engines there ought to have been four, and a supply of water sufficientfor all. What has become of the reservoirs" around tlie artesian wells which were talked of months ago ? Are we waiting till tho whole (own is burnt down before we build them ? We are glad to hear that the steam fire engine has been ordered and may be expected from England in December, though tho subscription list is far from complete to pay for it. This will supply three engines at 2000 ft. from the river. But we want more engines, more firemen, and better organisation* What was the origin of this fire ? There can be no doubt that it originated in Messrs. Matson and Torlesse's offices :—the smoke was first seen by Inspector Pender, coming up throug/Me chimney of their back room. Had the Inspector known that there had been no fire or candle in the house all Saturday, and that the offices had been locked up between three and four o'clock that afternoon without a trace of fire being left on the premises, he would have at once been attracted by so unaccountable a fact as the appearance of smoke coming out of the chimney at eight o'clock. But such we have ascertained was the fact; and the case is clearly ono which calls for an immediate and careful enquiry by the Coroner. So far as our information goes there were no means by which the fire could have been communicated to the back part of Messrs. Matson and Torlesse's premises from Mr. Ayers. A brick wall and a passage separates the two buildings. How then did it make its appearance in the house of the

former ?

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Permanent link to this item

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Bibliographic details

EXTENSIVE FIRE IN CHRISTCHURCH., Press, Volume IV, Issue 500, 6 June 1864

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EXTENSIVE FIRE IN CHRISTCHURCH. Press, Volume IV, Issue 500, 6 June 1864

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