DESTRUCTIVE FIRE BETWEEN YORK AND
Hardly had the first of the Rifle Volunteers after a heavy day's exercise in martial tactics on the chief headlands of the harbour, and of the spectators who had gone to view the batteries and try to gain an opinion of their probable value in case of need, returned to Sydney on Saturday evening last, when the fire bells of the city rang out an alarm. A strong glare in the direction of Market-street gave some hint as to the locality of the fire, and in a few minutes a large number of persons had congregated in the neighbourhood. By this time it was noticed that the fire had broken out in some wooden buildings at the rear of the shops of Messrs Swyny and Son, of 417, George street, and of Mrs Holt, a dressmaker, adjoining. The flames spread with great rapidity, and in about a quarter of an hour from the time the fire was first observed (7 pm), they had been communicated to the back store of Messrs Beaumont and Sons, painters and paperhangers, of 419, George-street, and, through the direction of the wind, then blowing from the N E , to a back kitchen two stories in height, at the back of the Kookaburra Inn in York-street. By 8 o'clock, the fire was at its height, and tongues of flame were seen to tower over the high party wall separating the large ironmongery store of Messrs T Lassetter and Co, of 421 and 423, George-street from the burning buildings; showers of sparks were thrown about in a manner that caused many to fear for the safety of the surrounding houses - nearly all roofed with shingles , and clouds of black smoke were driven over York and Market streets, leading many to believe that the fire had taken bold of Messrs Lassetter and Co's. The No 2 Volunteer firemen arrived in George street about half-past 7 o clock, and first got a hydrant to work, and with it they endeavoured to control the fire from that side. On the arrival of their steamer, the hydrant gave place to it, there being a totally inadequate supply of water for the use of both. A jet from the steamer did good service with the water that was obtainable, but that was so meagre in quantity that the engine could only play for a few minutes at a time, and had to be stopped at frequent intervals till the cistern in the street should be replenished. This jet was more particularly di- rected to the roof of the premises occupied on the lower story by Messrs Beaumont and Sons, and on the first floor and attic by Messrs Chandler and Lomer, photographic artists, whose operating room extends along the side of Messrs Lassetter and Co 's high dividing wall to the back of the two storied building at the rear of the Kookaburra Inn, and in the occupation of its landlord. By their efforts, under the apparent direction of Mr W Camb, the flames were in a great measure prevented from destroying the George street front of Messrs Beaumont's shop. The members of the Insurance Brigade, who arrived at the scene of the fire and took their station in York street, along which they had come with their engines, under the impression, from the report they received, that the fire had broken out in that street, immediately after the arrival of the No 2 in George-street, devoted their attention to preventing the fire from spreading into York street by throwing all the water they could obtain on to the two storied kitchen already alluded to, and a shed adjoin- ing and the wall of Messrs Lassetter and Co's, so that it might be kept as cool as possible. The Brigade, which was under the command of superintendent Charles Brown as had their newly received equilibrium steam fire engine stationed in George Street near to the steamer of the No 2 Volunteer Firemen; but, though steam bad been got up on its way from the station, and it was in complete working order, its capabilities were not tried, consequent upon the general want of water. To show what might have been expected from this engine, had it been furnished with anything like a proper quantity of the requisite element it may be mentioned that with a quantity of water conserved in a cistern, forced by a few revolutions through a 1½ inch jet at a time when the fire was raging with great fury, a tem- porary darkness was the result. The No 1 Volunteers were also of great service in George street, where they had stationed themselves with their manual engine a little to the north of No 2's and were prepared to prevent the flames from making their way northward, besides rendering valuable assistance in removing property from threatened buildings out of the reach of the fire. As the engines were
only enabled to work at intervals, the task of extinction
was a longer one than it might otherwise have been, and it was not until nearly 9 o'clock that the firemen could be said to have obtained a complete mastery over the flames. Even afterwards, a few vigorous outbursts of flames made renewed exertion necessary. A portion of the roof of Messrs Chandler and Lomer's studio at the northern extremity of the ridge cap appeared to burn with great persistence, in spite of a frequent application of water. Most of the engines had left the spot at 11 o'clock by which time the fire had been quenched.
The buildings which have suffered more or less from the influences of fire and water are as follows - The three
shops in George-street bounding the fire to the east, the property of Mr Uriah Botter - that nearest Messrs Lassetter and Co's being occupied below by Messrs Beaumont and Sons, and on the first floor and attic, tenanted by Messrs Chandler and Lomer, phographers , that adjoining, by Messrs Swyny and Son, bootmakers , and that still further north, and separated by a gateway from the premises of Mr W. C. Kelk, draper, by Mrs Holt, dressmaker and milliner. Mr Kelk's stock has been severely damaged by removal. A brick workshop and a shed at the back of Mrs Holt's have been destroyed by fire, and her shop stock is believed to have sustained considerable injury from water. A galvanised iron stable at the rear of Mr. Swyny's shop has been burnt and his stock has also suffered from water and removal. The back portion of Messrs Beaumont's shop, with its contents, has succumbed, as has also his back store, the latter, together with that portion of Messrs Chandler and Lomer's gallery directly above having been almost wholly burnt to the ground. The two storied brick kitchen, the property of a Mrs Lee, behind the Kookaburra Inn, and at the rear, from George-street, of Swyny's and Beaumont's been gutted, though some small portions of the roof still remain , and next to this kitchen a large shed in the occupation of Mr John Davies, blacksmith and ironmonger, of York-street has also suffered.
The destruction of property it is said will entail a loss of somewhere around £4000; but that sum is very likely to be under the correct estimate. Messrs Beaumont and Son are in-
sured for stock in the Sydney Office; Messrs Swyny and Son and Mrs Holt are uninsured. The three buildings are not insured. The stock of Messrs. Chandler and Lomer is in- sured in the United Office for £400. Mr W C Kelk
who has only sustained damage by removal, is insured in the Pacific for £2000 and in the London and Lancashire for £1000. Mr John Davies' stock is not insured. The
buildings, the property of Mr Wilson, of Manly Beach, are insured in the Liverpool and London Office. Mr Davies's loss consists of the destruction of a fence, the pulling down of one shed and the partial burning of another. The back kitchen of the Kookaburra Inn is insured, but it is not known to what amount.
During the progress of the fire, which was witnessed from George Market and York streets by a crowd such as it is only possible to gather together on a Saturday night, and which numbered about 12,000 persons, order and a clear space round the firemen were kept by a body of Volunteer Rifles and Artillery, who formed themselves with fixed bayonets in a semicircle round the engines, and by a strong posse of police under inspector Read and sub-inspec- tors Waters and Anderson. The Volunteer Force present, which comprised several members of the Naval Brigade, and representatives of nearly every metropolitan and suburban company, rendered valuable assistance in working the manual engines, and in removing property to places of security. The company which mustered most numerously was the Paddington and Surry Hills, com- manded by Captain Phillips, who had just dismissed his men in George street, at the time the alarm was given, and was able to gather them together again. A Volunteer of No 1 Sydney Battalion rendered special service in cutting down with an axe a wooden shed which, had it been allowed to remain, would in all probability have carried the fire to the York street front of Mr Davies's premises. Several private citizens exerted themselves in a very praiseworthy manner in carrying water before the engines had got to work, that they might retard, as far as possible, the progress of the fire. Two Duke of Edinburgh Highlanders, one of them named Martin, in the employ of Messrs Lassetter and Co, having procured ladders, climbed onto the roof of that firm's warehouse, to see whether it had ignited and were gratified on finding that all was safe. There can be little doubt that the height of the wall saved the premises from damage, as on several occasions it seemed certain that they could not escape.
Numerous were the complaints, not alone among the firemen and persons interested, but among the mass of the spectators of the fire, of the scarcity of water, in con- nection with which the city corporation was unsparingly condemned as the original cause of the non-supply, and some went as far as to express regret that the burning pre- mises were not those of a civic representative. Attention has been directed from time to time to the loss that has been sustained by a want of water when its presence was most essential, more especially in connection with the most important fires during the last fourteen months, beginning with that at the Blackwall wool stores. It is understood that the water is cut off from the city every evening during the week, with the exception of Wednesday, at 6 o clock, and turned on again at 6 a m. Why is this done at a time when there can hardly be a scarcity of water at Botany ? Is it merely that some citizens may be hindered from allowing water to escape throughout the night ? On Saturday night last, shortly after the alarm of fire had taken place, the water is said to have been turned on at the main in Hyde Park, but a long time elapsed before it reached George street.
The fire is believed to have originated in Mrs Holt's back yard. The neighbours mention that they have fre- quently seen a shop-boy of Mrs Holt's lighting a fire in centre of the yard, for the purpose of boiling a kettle.
As viewed after the fire had been extinguished, the in-
jured premises presented a most forlorn appearance. Very
little idea of the extent of the fire can be obtained from George-street, the roof of Messrs. Chandler and Lomer's rooms on that side being still intact. Of the Messrs Beau- mont's back premises very little remain but a heap of blackened timbers, broken and crumpled sheets of galvan- ised iron, mangled crates of sheet glass, clots of lampblack, pots of colours, the tints of which are no longer distinguish- able, and irregularly-shaped lumps of glue Messrs Chandler and Lomer have lost nearly all their many nega- tives, which seem to have been destroyed as they lay in their shelves in the attic by the action of fire. Their studio has been almost wholly destroyed, and the ceiling of the first floor above Messrs Beaumont's has fallen in from
the effects of the water
Yesterday afternoon the smoking debris was being satu- rated with water from a hydrant by members of the Fire Brigade.