At ten minutes to ten o'clock last night Constable Hughes, who was on duty in High street, heard a crackling noise inside the new Town Hall, which was occupied by Messrs Beath and Co. as a retail drapery store, and on making an examination found the interior of the building on fire. He at once proceeded to the Lichfield street fire brigade station and raised an alarm, which was quickly taken up by the bell at the Market place station. The members of the Brigade and a large number of persons mustered rapidly ; but as there was no reflection of the fire, a few moments expired before those at the Market place end of the city could ascertain where it had broken out.
Very little was visible, indeed, until the Town Hall had been reached, for the building being erected of stone, the only evidence of the fire was the glare through the windows. Mr Superintendent Harris of the Fire Brigade, Inspector Pender, with a number of the regular police, together with officers Mitchell and Alport, and several subordinate members of the Fire Police, were early on the ground. Several volunteers and a large crowd of citizens also collected rapidly in the street.
Within three or four minutes after the alarm was raised, the Dreadnought hand engine and the hook and ladder plant arrived almost simultaneously on the spot, the former at once taking up its station at the Matheson's Agency tank. By this time the fire had bui'3t through the large windows of the Town Hall, and huge masses of flame threatened the wooden buildings on each side. Of these there were on the south east side the old Town Hall, the premises of Mr Stewart, confectioner ; Mr Grierson, draper ; Mr Lake, stationer ; Messrs Strango and Co, drapers ; and Mr Black, draper, whilst on the north-west side there were the premises of Mr Nashelski, ironmonger ; Mr Herman, jeweller; Mr McKeever, draper j Mr Sawtell, tailor 5 a small fruiterer's shop ; Mr de Beer, tobacconist, and, after a right of way, the White Hart Hotel, with some brick shops beyond. It will thus be seen that an extensive row of shops was in danger on each side of the hall ; but confidence in the Fire Brigade was 9trong, and comparatively few goods were removed from the buildings.
Directly the flame 3 burst through the windows the roofs of Mr Nashelski's shop and the old Town Hall ignited and burnt rapidly. By this time, however, Firemen E. Atkinson and Burbery had got the hand engine branch on to (he roof of MrJJashelski'B shop, and as the engine commenced to pump water within five minutes of the alarm being raised — a remarkably short space of time the fire was opportunely taken. The men held their ground with a pertinacity and courage which, in view of the vast body of ; flame within a few feet of them, appeared from the street to bo really extraordinary. But the effort met with its reward, inasmuch as the fire on Nashelski's roof was prevented from extending, and in the meantime the steamers were rapidly getting ready to render assistance. Of the two, the Deluge was first in position, being located at Wilson and Saw tell's tank, whilst the Extinguisher took up a position at the ono opposite Matheson's Agency. Each of them laid out two lengths of hose, taking the fire, ono on each flank, and the Deluge commenced pumping about seven minutes and a half past ten o'clock, or thirteeen and a half minutes from the time of the alarm being raised, whilst the Extinguisher was not more than three-quarters of a minute later. In six or seven minutes after they commenced pumping, the fire might be said to be under command, and the engines stopped playing upon it at thirty -five minutes past ten. Part of the side walls fell in before this, and there was some fear of the end walla doing the same, but it proved to be groundless, and they remained standing. During the fire some alarm was also raised by a report that there was powder in Mr Nashelski's shop, but fortunately nothing occurred to show it was correct.
Tho Fire Police and regular police kept tk» ground very dear for the brigade to work in, and tho members of the latter worked with a quietness, precision, and rapidity highly commendable. The damage by fire may be said to comprise the gutting ef the New Town Hall and some damage to the roof of the Old Hall and Mr Nashelski's shop. The latter gentleman will lose considerably by the water injuring his stock, but the Old Town Hall was empty. Tho origin r of the fire is, a3 usual, a mystery. There had been no fire or light in the building for some days, and the doors were locked at the usual hour hist night — six o'clock. Constable Hughes states, however, that the door of the Old Hall, which communicates with the New Hall, was open during the evening. Messrs Beath and Go's, stock was valued at about £4000, and the only insurance upon it heard of laat night, is £1000 in the South British office. Mr Nashelski is said to be insured for £1800 in various offices, partly the New Zealand; and Mr Makeig, on behalf of the liquidators of the Town Hall Company, had renewed a policy for £800 on the buifding in the London, Liverpool, and Globe .office only yesterday. The excellent aeryice rendered by the handengine was the theme of general remark.- Tho advantage in getting to work so quickly as done last night, being evident to all.
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FIRE., Star, Issue 1597, 3 April 1873
FIRE. Star, Issue 1597, 3 April 1873
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