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EXTENSIVE FIRE IN CHRISTCHURCH.

(From the *' Canterbury Press.")

Christchurcfa hag had another ominous warning. A fire has swept away in about three hours a large block of buildings, and it is only a matter for astonishment and great thankfulness that the damage done was not tenfold greater. About 8 o'clock or a little after a column of Bmoke was observed rising apparently from the back premises of the buildings occupied by Messrs Matson and Torlesse, in Colombo street, and before 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 blocks of buildings were in danger— one on tlie west, the square block surrounded on the four sides by Hereford street, Colombo street, Gashel 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 the corner of Hereford street and Colombo street, along Colombo street, and down Cashel street to the river. The triangle oa the other side of Colombo street is one compact mass of houses occupying about three quarters of an acre. The fire commenced as we have said, in the back premises of the west side of Colombo street. The night was bright and clear, and, fortunate'y, was almost perfectly still, only a light air blowing from the west, and then veering into the south-west. In a minute or two after the alarm was given the No. 1 Engine was on the gronnd, and commenced playing on the flames, which by that time had wrapped tlw 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 Mr Ruddenklau's Hotel, immediately in front of the fire. This well is capable of supplying about 60 gallons a minute, but there being no reservoir to retain the water, a large zinc case was procured and placed under the spout, but the engine emptied it every four minutes, and a delay of two or three minutes bad to take place before the reservoir was filled again. No. 2 Engine, a much jnore 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 comer and rear of the buildings. The mass of stables and other outhouses however extended so far to the rear as to endanger the communication of the fire to the New douth Wales Hank in Hereford street, 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 fauna that all attempts to stop the progress of the fire in a block of houses entirely composed of wood, would be utterly fruitless, and that it could be only checked by an entire destruction of those buildings which could be most readily removed. Orders were accordingly given to proceed to. the work of demolition. The $re had now embraced, ta the east* ward of its origin, Mr Brook's, tha chemist's shop, and Messrs Axup, Sell, and Stewart (late Miss Skillicorn's), and to the west, Mr Urquhart's (late Asmussea's), watchmaker and jeweller. To save Mr Morton's (late Hart and Lodge's), was plainly impossible, so the work of pulling down the houses was commenced beyond the latter house. Axes were called into requisition, and r»pes attached, and building after building was speedily reduced to ruins, and the debris hauled bodily into the street, sad the rubbish cleared away and removed further down the street by the bystanders. By these means la the spaoe ef three hoars a lace was eat completely round the fire ; and though the whole thing seemed to be done without any directing mind in the midst of the utmost confiuion, yet an inspection of the ground in tbe 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 aa we have said, the night was unusually still, and the flames for the most part rose perpendicularly to the sky, or were canted by the gentle air from the southwest towards the corner ot Colombo street and Hereford street, where the open space of Cathedral Square 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 ried as far as the buildings on the east of Cathedral square, occasioning considerable anxiety for the safety of Bonnington's Music Room and lhe adjacent store of Messrs Symington and the offices of fie Bourbel and Co. How it happened that the Triangle was saved it i» not easy even now to perceive. The Fire Brigade No 1 Engine finding that all efforts to stay the fire on the west side of tbe street were unavailing, next, wisely directed their whole efforts to save the building* opposite. The hose was carried up to the top of the corner how* and the rood ail 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 elosa neighbor- ' hood of the muzz'e of the hose immediately extinguished it, and when it is considered what an j amount of property is held in that block of build- | ings, it is impossible to give to much credit to j the skill and exertions of the Brigade, to whom alone it is owing that tbe 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 themselves to tend the assistance required at fires. The same remark may be repeated now, but whilst there was a disinclination on the part of some to lend a hand, there were a very considerable number who worked with amazing energy and efiect, and of the bystanders ft seemed to us that it was rather from not knowing what to do than from any realzilisinclination to assist, that theys f^*ood with their hands in their pockets. TSt the same time the fire was so effectually and speedily got under that there is little cause* to complain. If there were any proper organization of the public there would he no difficulty whatever hi getting assistance. Where the shoe pinches most is in the want of volunteers to pump the engine. The work falls too heavily upon the more public spirited and energetic few. Tbe following is a list of the houses, burnt or destroyed :— Messrs Axup, Stewart, and Bell, drapers. Mr Brooke, chemist and druggist. Mr Ayera, hair cutter and City Baths. Messrs Matson and Torlesve's offices. Mr Urquhart, watchmaker and jeweller (late Asmussen's). 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, photographer. Mr Fuller, butcher. Mr Blundell, watchmaker and jeweller. Messrs Axup, Stewnrt and Bell, managed to clear out the greatest part of their stock, and we understand the watches and jewellery were also moßtly saved. 'But in the smaller shops a good deal of property was lost or destroyed. Several of the houses were very small wooden tenements, and we should not put down the whole value of the buildings at above LSOOO. What the value of the property destroyed may be it is impossible to say, but an estimate of LISOOO would probably not be very far from the mark. We have been able to bear of insurances in the Liverpool, Northern, Australian, and New Zealand Offices to the amount of above L&'OOO : chiefly by Messrs Axup Stewart and Bell, Mr Brooke. Mr Ayers, and Messrs Matson and Torlesse. Some other insurances have lapsed. Tbe losses will we fear fall most heavily on those who cm least afford it, but the whole amount may be regarded as very small, considering the density of the buildings, the inflammable nature of the materials of which they are built, and the large amount of property in the immediate neighborhood. His Honor the Superintendent and the Provincial Secretary were on tbe ground, and most of the principal inhabitants of Chriatchurch were working as men ought to work on such occasions. The police were admirably handled, and though some attempts at plunder were made, the arrest of four light-fingerei gentry, who were lodged in the lock-up, afforded a significant hint that it was a dangerous game to play at With the Fire Brigade only one fault can be foundthat they are too few in number. Considering that they are a body of volunteers and get no remuneration for their services, it really does seem most discreditable to Cbristchurch that so heavy a burden should be laid on the shoulders of so few dubHo 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 want and the great danger of, : Christohurch. Instead of two engines there ought to have been four, and a supply of water sufficient for ail. What has become of the reservoirs around the artesian wells which were talked of months ago ? Are we waiting till the whole town is burnt down before we build them 1 We are glad that the steam fire engine bas been ordered and may be expected from England in December, though the subscription list is far from complete to pay for it. This will Bupply three engines at 2000 ft. from the river. But we want more engines, more firemen, and better organisation. What was tha origin of this fire? There can be no doubt that it originated in Messrs. Matron and Toriesse's offices:— the smoke was first seen by Inspector Pender. coming up through the chimney of their back room. Had the Inspector knows that there bad 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 «o unaccountable a fact as the appearance of smoke coming out of tbe chimney at eight o'clock. But such we have ascertained was the fact; and the case is clearly one which calls for an immediate and careful inquiry 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 Toriesse's premises from Mr Ayers, A brick wall and a passage separates the two buildings. How, then,' did it make its appearance in t c house of the former!

Law of Divobci.— Sir,— A "Barrister" who lately wrote to the "Times,' 1 in order to draw public attention to tha existing anomalies in the law of Divorce, omitted all .mention of its most glaring absurdities. Allow me to state a case in point. Mr A. runs away with Mrs 8., very good; I mean very bad: well, Mrs A. sues for a divorce frem Mr A., and obtains an order for alimony penden'e Utc. Mr A. objects to pay this amount for the support of his wife, whereupon the Judge " orders an attachment to issue." Now, sir, if it be, as it certainly is, in the power of the Judge Ordinary to order MrA.'s attachment to Issue, why should he not be able judicially to order Mr A.'s attachment to Wife 1 I remain, sir, yours thoughtfully,— A Revising Babbister.—" Punch."

Confidence.— Old Gentleman: "Thomas, I have always placed the greatest confidence hi you. Now, tell me, Thomas how is it that my butehert bills are so large, and that I always have such bad dinners ?" " Really, sir, Ido not know, for lam sure we never have anything nice in the kitchen that we do not tend some of it up into tha parlor.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/OW18640611.2.10

Bibliographic details

EXTENSIVE FIRE IN CHRISTCHURCH., Otago Witness, Issue 654, 11 June 1864

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EXTENSIVE FIRE IN CHRISTCHURCH. Otago Witness, Issue 654, 11 June 1864

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