DISASTROUS FIRE AT HAMILTON.
(from the Hamilton Spectator.)
About 3 o'clock on Sunday morning the residents of Hamilton were aroused from their beds by the cry of " Fire !" and a large crowd soon collected in Gray street, where flames were seen issuing from the grocery store of Messrs. Nickless and Wells, and the adjoin- ing building. It appears that Mr. Nickless was in Melbourne, and Mr. Wells states that he closed the store at about 11 o'clock on Saturday night, extinguishing the lights in both windows, and in the chandelier in the centre of the store. There was no fireplace or stove on the premises, and no one slept there. Mr. Wells, after visiting for a few minutes, in company with a friend, the hotel across the way, proceeded to Lindsay's hotel, where he was lodging, and retired to bed. About 3 o'clock, Mr. J. H. Scott, of the Free Press stationery warehouse, adjoin- ing the store of Nickless and Wells, was awoke by a stifling sensation, and got up to see what was the matter. He found the place filled with volumes of smoke, so dense that on trying to light a lamp he could not get it to burn. His household were soon aroused, and escaped with such scanty cloth- ing as they could lay their hands on. Little could be done to save anything ; but a piano and harmonium were got out, with a few articles of jewellery. Mr. Scott, junior, having fetched Mr. Wells, an entrance was effected into the grocery store, but the heat
and smoke were so great that any attempts
to save the goods would have been useless. There being only a thin partition of weather- board between this store and Mr. Scott's building, the latter was soon enveloped in a sheet of flame. The printing plant, in a de- tached building at the rear, remained unin- jured. The police magistrate and the fire brigade were early on the scene, but the buildings being all of wood, it was soon seen that the only chance to stop the fire from sweeping the entire block as far as Brown street, was to pull down the butcher's shop of Messrs. Brown Brothers, to create a gap. This was accordingly accomplished ;but mean- while the fire had consumed the tobacco store of Mr. John Moss, who with the assistance of the public, managed to get out most of his stock. The fire had just caught the side of the butcher's shop, when the building was pulled down. Owing to the difficulty of main- taining proper organisation amongst so large a crowd as had now collected, a number of well-meaning persons made considerable ex- ertions to save property not then actually in danger. Thus, Mr. Lockie's saddler's shop, which was on the other side of the gap made by the demolition of the butcher's shop, was forced open, the windows wore smashed, and the stock, which was a valuable one, was got out, and no doubt injured to some extent in the hurry,
By this time the fire was spreading rapidly on the other side of Nickless and Wells' store, and had consumed Miss Ryan's millinery establishment, with the small shop adjoining, but not before the occupants had got out their valuables. All the buildings so far were of wood, and without a hose delivering water at a pressure it was impossible to save them. It was hoped that Brown's saddler's shop would have checked the fire, as the walls were of brick. The wind, however, was carrying the flames to the roof, which soon blazed up, and fell in with a crash. The goods had been removed pre- viously. The weatherboard building of Mr. Destree, the watchmaker, was blazing at the same time, and was soon consumed. Mr. Destree succeeded in saving the most valuable portion of his stock. The fire here met with a barrier in the stone walls and zinc roof of Mr. Owen's store, formerly Cloughs ware- house. Fortunately the roof of this building was framed with iron ribs, but the fire found out the only combustible part-a top plate of wood to which tho roof was fixed, and burnt it to charcoal. Tho Spectator office being on the other side of Mr. Owen's store, escaped with little damage, although the stationery stock had been got out before it was known what dimensions the fire was likely to assume. Danger, however, was threatening in the rear, the stables of Mr. Destree being on fire, which buildings were connected by fences with the wooden stabling of Mr. Owen, adjoining the back premises of the Spectator. A large heap of firewood piled against Mr. Owens fence was removed into the right-of way at the back, the supports of Destreo's stabling were chopped away, and that building was partially pulled down. By this time, how- ever, the fire in front had expended itself sufficiently to admit of access being had to Mr. Destree's water-tanks, the contents of which were nearly boiling. Water was now freely poured on to the burning stable, and by this means the fire was got under.
An opportunity was now afforded of sur- veying the scene of desolation. A large gap had been formed in the very centre of the business portion of the town, the most valu- able sites in Gray-street being covered with a moss of cinders, and sheets of roofing twisted into all imaginable shapes ; with here and there a chimney stack or a portion of a brick woll left standing. Great sympathy was ex- pressed for the sufferers, particularly for Messrs. Destree and J. H. Scott, whose families have been deprived of all their clothing and household goods. The families thus burnt out of their houses in the middle of an inclement night were, however, well cared for by their friends, and made as com- fortable as circumstances would permit. They had a narrow escape of their lives, and had there been but a few minutes' delay in discovering the fire, it is probable we should now be called upon to chronicle a tragical catastrophe, instead of merely a loss of pro-
I The following is an enumeration of the premises destroyed, and the insurances exist- ing on the various properties :-Mr. Destree, jeweller's shop, insured for £100 in the Vic- toria Company ; stock uninsured. Mr. James Brown, saddler, shop insured for £600, and stock for £400 in the Queen Office. Nickless and Wells, grocers' shop (belonging to Mr. J. H. Scott), insured for £150 in the Imperial ; stock insured for £500 in the Alliance, and £600 in the Imperial. (Mr. Wells esti- mates the loss to his firm at £1,200). Mr. J. H. Scott, stationer's shop, insured for £350 in the Imperial ; stock insured for £1,200 in the Victoria. Miss Ryan's, milliner's shop (belonging to Mr. Destree), in- sured for £150 in the Victoria ; stock not in- sured. Mr. John Moss, tobacconist's shop (belonging to Mr. Destree), insured for £150 in the Victoria ; stock not insured. Messrs. Brown Brothers, butchers' shop, insured in the National for £150. Mr. Lockie's stock, damaged by removal, was insured in the Alli- ance. Mr. Owen's building, partially damaged, and Spectator stationery stock slightly injured by removal, were insured in the Victoria. At present it is difficult to ascertain the total amount of the loss, but it has been roughly estimated at £7,000. About £4,750 will be covered by insurance.
In commenting on tho after-dinner pro- ceedings at the Hamilton Annual Pastoral and Agricultural Show, tho Spectator says : "It is a matter worthy to be noted that the banquet was graced by the presence of the representatives of three different meat-pre- serving companies, besides that of a gentle- man interested in a station where 40,000 Bheep wore annually preserved as ono of the branches of the ordinary sheep-farming busi- ness. This circumstance probably tended in no; small decree to communicate a tinge to tho proceedings, and the toast of ' Our local industries' brought out in full forco the ad- vantage and necessity of establishing these meat-preserving companies."
The Mount Alexander Mail states that on Wednesday night " a possengor going on from Castlemaine by the mail train had a narrow escape from being run over by the engine after the train had entered the station. When tho train was approaching tho man ran hur- riedly from tho refreshment-room, and crossed the line at the wrong place. He sprang up i on the opposite side, but landed on one foot only, just on the edge of the coping, and forla minute or so was balancing himself by waving his arms, and in this position ho was when the train was within five yaTds of him. Fortunately for him, he at last fell forward. Had he fallen backwards his instant death was inevitable. A person on the platform shouted to him to go back while he was in the act of crossing, and another ran forward to lay hold of him after ho bad reached the coping stone, but seeing the train so near the perlón declined to risk his life for one who aidinot seem to set a value on his own,"