INQUEST ON THE FIRE AT JUDGE WARD'S RESIDENCE.
An enquiry into the cause of the recent fire at Judye Ward's residence, was held yester day, at the Melville Hotel, before B. Beetliam, Esq., Coroner, and the following jury :— Messrs W. Bush (foreman), T. G. Cork, C. Green, C. Bowker, G i.ouder. F. A. Simß, J. Cramond, P. W. Button, T. Machin, G. Purdie, W. Healey, W. O'Brien, T. B. Jones, and J. Pkelps. The inquiry wa9 conducted by Inßpeotor Pender, and Mr J. W. White, as Crown Solicitor, watolied the case on behalf of the railway authorities. His Worship, after the jury were sworn eaid that they had been called to hold an enquiry into Ihe origin of a fire which had occurred at the residence of Judge Ward on the 28ih of December last. It would be necessary for them to visit the scene of the fire previously to proceeding with the enquiry. The Foreman said the distance was too far to walk, and asked whether provisions had been made for taking them out there. His Worship said that he had no power to make any provisions for them. If they wanted a conveyance to take them out, there were no means of obtaining it except by the jury paying for it out of their own pookets. This the jury agreed to do, and visited the scene of the fire, after which the following evidence was taken : — James Scott : I am a Btoker employed on the railway at Timaru. I am with enginedriver Simons. I left Timaru with him on the engine A6B at 7 a.m. on Saturday the the 28th December last for Albury, on a mixed train. The engine is the smallest m Timaru. Th= engine was not provided with a spark catcher ; it was m every other respect right. I havu only been fireman on the engine for about lour Wfeks. The wind was blowing very hard from the north-west. Nothing occurred on Ihe way to Albury. We left Albury on our return trip to Timaru at 9;15 a.m. the same day, and were due at Timaru at 11 a.m. I noticed nothing extraordinary happen. We passed the Washdyke wi'hina few minutes of H o'clock. I saw nothing occur until after reaching Timaru. I then saw smoke m the direction of Judge Ward's residence, and was told it was a fire. I saw no sparks escape. Ido not know that there have been any alteration* made m the engino since. I think a new sparkcatcher was put on, on Monday. To a juror: I do not know that the engine Weka ia smaller than the one we ran to Albury or that day. To Mr Wuite: There was no sparkcatcher on the engine until about 4 o'clock on the same day. To a juror : We were burning Newcastle coal. We never stir the fire at one place more than another. William Wilding : I am an engine-fitter "' at the Timaru Railway-station. A part of my duty is to fit on spnrk-catchers. The it engine, A6B has a spark-catcher on. It was >t put on the evening of the day on which the >f fire oocurrcd. The engine was out that day, i, but I do not know where. I cannot account y for the spark-catcher not being put on. The •r foreman instructed me to put the sparkc catcher on. The objeot of a spark-catcher-i- being on is to prevent the Bparkß from going up « the chimney. All the engines have not c spark-catchers ou, but I cannot say why. r There are five engines ia Timaru, but I think c only two of them are provided with spark- 1 i. catchers. A 68 and J 83 are the engines i which have spark-catchers. " To Mr White : There is a smaller engine v than A6B at Timaru. The engine had been c refitted, and that was the first day on which she was brought out. The spark-catcher was r not ready when she wag taken to Albury that - morning, and that was the reason it was not f put on. The [spark^catcher ii supposed to 1 keep the ashes nnd sparks from going up i, the chimney, The fact of ft spark-catcher I being on would not prevent sparks from f escaping. The fire is as liable to come , j through the ash-pan as the funnel. The fire I 1 from the aeh>pan falls between the raili, but i \ ssighb hare bwa blown »w»y.
To Inspector Pen >er : 1 do n .1 know Mint, there are «m better spark^atclnrs made tlun the one produced. To a Juror :>I have not. seen engines fifed with a wire gauze funnel to prevent sp irke escaping. 1 l»-licve I worked ov. rtime to put tlie spark-catcher on. It might have bt-en 10 o'clock at night when I fitted the sparkcat c-her on the e> gine. William Simom- : I am an engine-driver on the Canterbury railways, and ri-collpct 1 -avins the Ti.naru Station with engine A 68 for Albury on the morning of the 28th of December last. I cannot say whether the engine was fitted with a spark-catcher. On | returning I noticed a fire at ihe Wash'iyke, lifter we hud left tho Washdyke Station. The fire wa* clo*e to the line. I did not notice any fire near Judgo Ward's residence, and did not know anything übout the fires until I arrived m Tttnaru, when I heard the fire-bell. No train citne m after me, and no one left Timaru before I heard the fire-bell. The engine is one of the smallest we have, and is the only small engine running on that line. The engine is, properly speaking, a shunting engine, but when thort of engines it is sometimes sent out.' To Mr White ■ A shunting engine is as safe as any other. I have had about eight years' experience as an engine driver. I have been five years on one road m Canada, and though sparkcat criers were on the engines, fires occurred oecueionally. The effect of a sp*rk catrher like the one produced is to prevent the larger sparks from ge'tmg through. On windy dnys we have to use more coal, more steam, and there is heavier draft than m ordinary weather, and sparks are more liuble to escape. When we are driving a certain amount of epirks fall through he bars into the ash-pan, and are blown away by the wind. Sparks as big as nuts would esoipe o-i windy days. To Inspector Pender : The absence of the spark-catcher on windy days would increase thp danger. To the Coroner : The engines do not steam so well when they have the spark-catchers on. The engine would not work properly, and we would lose time. To a juror: The engine would steam an well with the spark- catchers used m America as without them. I have never tried one m America without a spark-catcher. Charles Miller : I am a gardener m the employment of Mr Belfield. I was about three chains away from the lino when the fire occurred. I saw the engine throwing out. fire about, seven or eight chnins away, and I saw another fire along the line. Thero was no fire m the place before the engi"o paßßPcl. I saw the fire light up m the pla'-o pointed out. to the jury. I went away then taking no notice of it, as it was a matter of daily occurrence to pee fire escape from engines. I returned m nbout 10 minuleß, and saw the fire m the plantation. There were a number of people collected, and we put it out. To Mr White : I saw the sparks fall, and causing smoke to rise. William Word : I am groom m the employment of Mr Belfield. On the 28th of December, I. saw a train with a email engine coming into the cutting, and m about five minutes after I saw a fire m Judge Ward's plantation. I saw the last witness there. I think he smokes. Thomas Tarrant : I am a gardener, and wa§ Dresent at the fire that occurred at Judge Ward's place. It was just catching the orchard when Igot there I have traced the 6re from the gate to the orchard. There is about £300 damage done to Judge Ward'B property. Charles Miller, recalled : I was not smoking on that occasion. I had not been smoking that morning at all before the fire occurred. Thiß concluded tl>e evidence produced by the police, and Mr White, on behalf of the railway authorities called the following witnesses: — Abram Blackmore : I am a locomotive foreman, stationed at Timaru. I know the engine A 68, and saw it leave for Albnry last Saturday morning. She always burns Newcastle coal. I have seen fires occasioned along the line by pas?enger3 throwing matches away, or by sparks from the ash-pan. Spark-catchers will not entirely prevent sparks escaping, they will only prevent large lumps from escaping, I have seen fires occasioned by an engine with fire-catchers on, but it is only m windy weather that it occurs. To Inspector Pender : I think I mny say I have seen matches thrown from a train, cause fireß bo often as fifty times. Allison Smith : I am Locomotive Engineer on the Canterbury railways, stationed at Christchurch. I have had t"n years experience m Scotland, America, and New Zealand. It is only on American engines that spark -catchers are much used. Spark catchers will not prevent fireß altogether, and thousands of pounds have been expended m experimenting on sparkcatchers, but no perfect work has been produced yet. This concluded the evidence, and after His Worship had instructed the jury, they retired to consider their "verdict. After about » quarter of an hour's deliberation they returned the following verdict — " That the fire m question originated from sparks from engine A 68, while passing from Albury to Timaru," and added the following rider : — " That the jury consider it advisable that all the railway engines should be provided with spark-catchers on the most improved principle."