Old, vintage, historical book archives at the Morwell Historical Society

Fire November 1929 – Commercial Road

A Journey in Time – A Resource for Local History

Fire November 1929 – Commercial Road

Fire in Tulloch’s Buildings

Quite a sensation was caused in Morwell, on Saturday night last, when at about 10 o’clock the fire bell rang and an alarm quickly spread that a fire had broken out in a row of shops in the main street, known as “Tulloch’s Buildings”, between Conlan’s Club Hotel and Barry’s “Murdoch’s” Hotel, and occupied by J. Jordan, saddler and harness maker; J.R. and F. Dow, grocers; Sharpe Bros., drapery emporium, and T. Furlong, fruiterer and confectioner. All the shops were constructed of wood with brick front, portions having been erected about 50 years ago, although some alterations and renovations have been made in recent years.

Pictures were being held at the Mechanics’ Hall and considerable excitement prevailed there when some one announced that half the town was on fire.

The outbreak occurred in Jordan’s shop, which is at the east end of the row, and adjoins Conlan’s Hotel. Although an alarm was soon raised and members of Morwell Fire Brigade were quickly on the scene, the flames soon got hold of the old wooden structure and there was every prospect of there being one of the most serious conflagrations that has occurred in the town for many years past. It was therefore deemed advisable by onlookers to solicit the aid of Traralgon and Yallourn brigades. Both these brigades kindly responded to the call as promptly as possible, but before their arrival on the scene the Morwell brigade, who distinguished themselves, had the fire under control, having effected a wonderful save by good work. Fortunately there was a splendid pressure of water available, and the fire was attacked from front and back and also from roof, volumes of water being poured in from all directions.

A great crowd gathered and much excitement prevailed as the battle against the flames progressed. The shops were all filled with smoke, and the flames not only leaped into the air but crept along the ceilings and sheets of iron had to be pulled off the roof to counter attack same. By degrees the firemen made good progress, and in their hands the water eventually gained a victory over the fire. Although Jordan’s shop and contents were reduced to ashes and Dow’s store and stock practically destroyed, Sharpe’s Emporium, carrying over £5000 worth of stock, including recent large consignments of Christmas goods, and Furlong’s well filled shop were saved.

Considerable damage, was of course done by the water, which under the circumstances was unavoidable, Mr. Norman Sharpe estimating the damage in this respect, to his stock being about £1,500. A good deal of harm was also done in Dow’s from the same cause. Portion of Conlan’s kitchen at rear of hotel caught fire, but was soon extinguished.

…but before he could reach the door he was overcome and fell to the floor

How the fire originated is a mystery, Mr. Jordan closed his shop on Friday afternoon and went to Melbourne.

Mr. Norman Sharpe had quite a narrow escape. When he arrived on the scene his shop was full of smoke. he, however, had about £100 in money in the shop and resolved to try and secure it. After some difficulty he got the money but before he could reach the door he was overcome and fell to the floor. Fortunately he was rescued from his perilous position and taken outside, where he soon recovered.

A special word of praise is due to members of the local Fire Brigade, who responded so promptly to the call and worked so hard and successfully against the fire fiend that threatened so much destruction. Members of Traralgon and Yallourn Brigades are also deserving of praise for the ready response to the call for aid.

Unfortunately most of the firemen had their clothes badly damaged, some being completely ruined. We understand that firemen have no claim on Insurance Companies or others to make good any of their loss sustained in such a way.

We would therefore suggest that the Brigade form a fund immediately from which to make good losses sustained by firemen (whose services are voluntary) whilst doing service in fighting any fire. The Brigade has proved itself well worthy of support by property owners and others and there should be no difficulty in securing funds for the purpose suggested.

In the same edition, The Morwell Advertiser, published the following letters written to the editor:

Dear Sir,

Could you spare space in your valuable paper that I may give full descriptions of Saturday night’s fire in Morwell. When dong, dong, dong, dong rang out from the Morwell fire bell, I was talking to a friend in Mr. A. Martyn’s fruit shop. I made a run for the fire station to bring a reel on the scene and was met by a man bringing a reel to the fire. I lent him a helping hand. We then connected the hose to the plug near the pst office and ran the hose to the burning building. Two men rushed in the doorway with hose in full force. I thought the fire was nothing after all, until the flames flew through the roof of Mr. Jordan’s shop. There was only one hose in operation at the time, I then began to think, where can the brigade be, till it dawned on me at once. It is Saturday night and members of the brigade are at the picture hall. I rushed with great haste and on arrival met Mr. A. Martyn in the passage way, and asked him did he know anything of the town being in danger of fire. He said “No” and ran off at once to lend a helping hand. I then opened the hall door and shouted to those deeply interested picture patrons, “Are there any firemen here gentlemen, the town is on fire !” Then there was a rush, a roar of stampeding foot steps and a noise like thunder, ants could not appear from their nest as fast as the people left the picture hall. They seemed to be all firemen and firewomen too; in fact if the whole Australian army were in that hall, there could not have been more noise.
When the firemen arrived every hose was manipulated, and the fire brought under control in a very short time, considering they were handicapped by thick dense smoke. In my opinion you have tip-top fighters in Morwell, that the people should be proud of.

The reason of the few only hearing the fire bell was on account of the “ringer” not ringing loud enough. The ring was rather faint, and the Brigade should not be blamed for failing to hear it in the picture hall.

Yours sincerely,

A.E. Iland

Dear Sir,

I will not ask you for very much space now, but I will express my feelings and appreciation more when the Morwell Fire Brigade and I will celebrate their wonderful achievement at a dinner in the very near future. No doubt the members of the Morwell Fire Brigade are great heroes. They have saved four business houses and unemployment for about 14 people, also 3,000 to Sharpe Bros.’ firm, which would have been a great loss if same had been completely destroyed. I also wish to THANK the general public for their efforts to assist us in every possible way. The Yallourn and Traralgon Fire Brigades deserve all credit for their wonderful response to our “call for help”.
Wishing the Morwell Fire Brigade every success in the future.

Yours faithfully,

Norman Sharpe.

A Brief Word about the Fire Brigade

The Morwell Volunteer Fire Brigade was formed on Friday 20th November 1914, it became operational in January 1915. Mr. Richard Noy was the first Captain, other officers were Lieutenant J. Bryden, Foreman W. Wilson and Secretary W. Milligan.

The Brigade consisted of 25 men and initially operated from Gill’s Gazette newspaper office in Station Street (Princes Highway)

Morwell’s first fire station was opened in December 1917, the station was built beside the railway line near the then Church Street level crossing. This site was selected because it afforded easy access to any location within the township.

The current (1998) fire station in Church Street was opened on Friday July 17th 1953 at a cost of approximately 19,000, the brigade then became a unit under the control of the “Country Fire Authority”.

In June 1964 a 122 foot high fire tower was constructed at the Church street site costing £500.

In recent years a new engine shed was added to the station, this shed has a capacity for several vehicles.