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Fire March 1890 - Commercial Road

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The events associated with this disaster were vividly reported in the following article published in the pages of the Morwell Advertiser on Friday March 27th 1890

Probably one of the greatest disasters that ever happened in Morwell occurred on Tuesday night last. At about half past ten o'clock the cry of "Fire!" brought many residents to the scene of the disaster. It appears from what we are able to gather that the fire started in Butchery establishment of Messrs. Howlett and Allen.

Mr. Cleaver, the manager, was aroused from his slumbers by a lad in the employ of Easton's Bakery, and together they raised the alarm, with the result that before many minutes had elapsed a good crowd had gathered and were endeavouring to subdue the flames, which had by this time made great headway.

Mr. J. B. Miller, who was about to retire for the night, had barely time to rescue his children before the flames burst through the walls, and, despite the splendid endeavours of the volunteers, the building in a few minutes, was a mass of flames. Attention was next turned to the Bank of Australasia, which was beginning to scorch, and to save this building, a constant supply of water had to be kept up.

The wind which was very slight, changed, and blew towards the west. This made things lively for Mrs. Patton's shop, which was soon blazing, only giving time to save her account books, and indeed, so rapid was the advance of the fire that the adjoining shop, which was occupied by Mr. J. D. Robinson, was in flames. At this stage the fire was at its height, and to a casual visitor, the sight would have been magnificent but for the serious nature of the calamity, the road being strewn with articles saved from the various shops of the tradespeople. But the fire was not yet over, and before long the saddlery department of Mr. R. Stephenson was in flames. The only hope now left of saving the block was by demolishing Mr. F. Holmes' Jewellery establishment; so, quickly clearing the shop of its valuables, ready hands were soon found to cut away the building, which was successfully tilted out into the centre of the road, followed by some enthusiastic cheering.

Next an attack was made on Messrs. Adams and Maxwell's which was being licked by the flames from Mr. G. A. Earle's office, and the volunteers were kept actively engaged keeping up a supply of water on the building. This state of affairs continued for about a quarter of an hour before they were successful in throwing the burning portion of the office on the top of the fire, this being accomplished by levers, and handled by skilful workmen. All was now comparatively safe, and the band of workmen had breathing time, during which they refreshed themselves with frequent pulls at the lemonade bottle and also a few "revivers". All that now remained to be done was to keep watch until daylight to prevent any fresh outbursts.

The list of the insured and non-insured shops are as follows:

  • Messrs. J. B. Miller, insured
  • Howlett and Allen (property owned by Mr. Theobald) partly insured
  • J. D. Robinson, bootmaker, not insured
  • R. Stephensom, saddler, insured
  • G. A. Earle, auctioneer, not insured
  • F. Holmes, insured
  • Mrs. Patton, not insured

The fire, before it was subdued, extended about 70 yards, and where, but a few hours before, stood a lively row of shops, nothing remained but a few charred verandah posts. It has been decided by the Morwell Minstrel Club to give an entertainment in aid of those distressed. Speaking aside, it is our candid opinion that there was never a body of men worked better than our volunteers on this first, and, we trust, last occasion.

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