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DESTRUCTIVE FIRE IN MELBOURNE., Issue 10477, 22 November 1897
DESTRUCTIVE FIRE IN MELBOURNE.
IiAMAOE“to' ,AND A-HALF MILLIONS. [Pbb Press Association,—Copyright.] MELBOURNE, November 22. Yeaterdav Flinders lane was the scene of an appalling fire, which did damage to the extent of a million and a-half. ,1;,.7' The fire originated at ah early hour. m the huge premises of Craig; Williamson; and Thomas, in Elizabeth street, between Flinders street and FUndere lane, . but tbo flames obtained suob a hold, and the conditions were so peculiarly favorable to their spread, thatthefirewashotgptuhder, control until three-fourths of the, buildings in the block bounded by Elizabeth street, Flinders street, Swanston street, and- Flinders lane, comprising the great warehouses and emporiums l of the soft goods .trade cf Victoria, had Been gutted and reduced to a mass of tottering ruins. Colossal though the disaster became, it was within an ace of more than doubling its magnitude, for had the wind, which chopped about from north-west to south-west, veered round to the west only a miracle could have saved the_mass of forty _ warehouses, and other buildings extending from the north side of Flinders lane to Collins street. As it was, the buildings fronting the north side bear in their blackened, fire-scorched, and window-broken appearance ample evidence of the narrowness of their escape. HEROIC FIREMEN. "' Measrs Craig, Williamson, and Thomas, in whole establishment the fire originated, carried on business as warehousemen, importers, and manufacturers in a sevenstoreyed building. When this huge building was well alight the heat was so intense that the fire brigades were driven out from the lane again and again. The flames leapt from building to building eastward with amazing rapidity. Wise’s auction rooms and Detmold’s premises were soon enveloped. The former, stored with furniture, burned like matchwood, sending a solid body of flame into. Finks’s building, while at the rear of Craig, Williamson, and Thomas’s the flames, extending beyond Detmold’s warehouse, seized upon a roomy six-floored building facing Flinders lane, and occupied by a number of firms, including WarretP and Strange, of Sydney ; Brooks, M'Glashan, and Haig, importers ; Grove, a steel shirt manufacturer j Rochussen Bros., merchants ; Herbert and Carter, wholesale fancy and leather goods and elastic brace manufacturers; Renfrew and Co., furnishing warehousemen; M'Beth, Makower, and Co.; J. Basaxe, umbrella manufacturer; and others. Torrents of water poured on the advancing flames failed to even check their progress, and with the rapid increase of the area of the burning mass concentrating the efforts of the firemen was out of the question. COLLAPSE OF LOFTV WALLS.
Moreover, an additional element of danger was introduced by the partial collapse of the lofty walls of the establishment of Craig, Williamson, and Thomas. One section of the wall fell upon the rear portion of the Duke of Rothsay Hotel, completely wrecking it. Another section fell on Wise’s auction rooms, while the front wall appeared to threaten such danger that the firemen had to bd withdrawn from their western vantage point. . A gallant effort was made to save Finks’s building, but the changing wind again set the efforts at nought. The flames gained 'a fresh foothold, and soon from each of the eight tiers of windows in Finks’s buildings the fire E cured in .uncontrolled mastery, this eing followed by ominous sounds as the floors and the roof, fell in and the expansion of the iron girders caused the walls to creak and crack to an alarming extent. A solid wall of advancing fire extending from Flinders lane to Flinders street swept over a row of small buildings without doing much damage to them. The Mutual Store, a fine six-floored structure, over which special care was being taken to make it fire-proof, resisted the attack, though much damaged by water.
. Having arrested the fire on Flinders street, the efforts of the firemen were concentrated on Flinders lane. The flames had orossed from Brookes and M'Qlashan’a to Stevenson and Son’s five-storeyed ware, house, which was" filled with valuable goods. With wonderful rapidity the flames ran from floor to floor, lioking up the contents as though they were tinder. Pouring out of the windows, the fire ran up the walls and attacked the roof, and within an hour only the external walla were left standing. From Stevens’s to Sargood, Butler, Nichols, and Ewen’s was the work of an instant. Saygood’s warehouse was one of the largest in Melbourne, extending from Flinders street on one side to Flinders lane on the other. The flames attacked the huge structure on the Flinders lane side, and the building was soon beyond all hope of- rescue. The highly inflammable nature of the contents acted as oil to the flames, which daited hither and thither throughout the length and breadth of the buildings, and, speedily mounting to the roof, furnished a fitting climax to the spectacle, as grand and impressive as it was calamitous. The wind had now fallen somewhat, and the fire brigade again concentrated their efforts to prevent 'the further spread of the flames. - ' ; 7 ... Monaghan’s building, a six - storeyed structure at the comer of Swanston street and Flinders lane, was saved, hut the adjoining premises, occupied by Metcalfe and Barnard, and by Egerton and Moore (printers), were gutted and reduced to ruins. On the Flinders street side the collapse of the east wall of Sargood’s place caused the ruin of Lincoln, Stuart, and Go.’s outfitting establishment, and the damage of the rear portion of the Port Phillip Club Hotel and the premises extending from the Port Phillip Club Hotel to Swanston street—viz., those of Thomas Whitelaw and Co. (oilmen) and Davidson’s furniture shop. Young and Jackson’s Hotel escaped. THE MARCH OF THE FIRE. When the flames were assailing the Mutual Store at a dozen points a party of firemen heroically found their way to the roof, dragging hoses with them. Round about them ashes fell, making with the red soot a blinding, suffocating mass that covered the roof, which was fortunately fireproof, to the depth of several inches in places. Despite the awful risk of being cut off in an isolated position, not a man moved from his post till the building was secure. The sight from a roof where one could view the scene with safety was impressive in its awfulness. No such sight has ever been seen in Australia. •" So thoroughly gutted was every building round about that the gaunt, tottering walls looked like the shells of active volcanoes, each sending forth, clouds of smoke and steam and crackling flames.
Stevens’s stock, valued at £100,006, .was insured for £90,000. -.
Lincoln and Stuart’s stock and buildings were insured for £30,000. Sargood’s stock, roughly valued at £150,000, and building, valued at £50,000, were covered by insurance.
'Mr Craig,tb.e head of ; the firm where *he fire blames the brigade', believing that diad they : got the water on immediately they could nave confined the %e to. the ground floor. He estimates bis damage at £IOO,OOO, but it is covered ■by insurance. • j _■
THE FIREMEN’S ACCOUNT. The. superintendent of the brigade states that when he arrived within four minutes of the call- the; fife had such a hold that it was impossible to do more than try And save the adjoining building. The flames were Tthe fiercest he ;has seen; during his life. =. He believes that fifteen minutes sufficed to lick up Sargood’s, He thinks that the fire must have been burning in Craig’s all Saturday afternoon ahdnight.
The chairman of the Underwriters’ Association expects the losses to the insurance companies to fully reach £600,000, three-fourths of which falls on British and foreign companies.
DESTRUCTIVE FIRE IN MELBOURNE., Issue 10477, 22 November 1897
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