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MOST DISASTROUS PIRIE FIRE

FOR YEARS

HOW CENTRAL MISSION HALL WAS DESTROYED AND "THE RECORDER"

OFFICE SEVERELY DAMAGED

FORTY-EIGHT HOURS OF RAIN AND WIND

FOLLOWED ALEXANDER STREET BLAZE

With the shade temperature reaching toward the

century, Pirie on Wednesday morning last experienced its most disastrous fire for several

years.

Central Mission Hall, Alexander street, was com

pletely destroyed, and "The Recorder" Office adjoining was severely damaged.

For more than an hour Pirie Fire Brigade, assisted by

trained A.R.P. volunteer firemen and a host of helpers, fought the flames, which produced terrific

heat.

The rear portion of "The Recorder" buildings

was completely wrecked, the machinery hall was practically gutted, and the commercial and literary portions of the premises were badly affected by water, smoke, and heat.

'THE fire originated in Central Mis * sion Hall, a dry and decrepit weatherboard structure which was erected 60 years ago.

The brigade received a call about 9.30 a.m, .and although it soon ap peared with two appliances under Relieving Station Officer A. L, Mc Callum, the old church building was ablaze from end to end, the • flames at times shooting 60 ft. into the air.

Lines of hose were run from the Alexander and Gertrude street mains, and later from Florence street. There was no hope of saving the hall or any of its contents, and efforts were concentrated upon "The Recorder" Office.

It was realised that if the flames crossed the space between that 'build ing and 'Mr. A.. E. Arnold's dry cleaning premises next door the whole business block would have been in serious danger.

Magnificent Workers

Men responded heroically to the needs of the hour. Some members of "The Recorder" staff were pn the premises at the time of the outbreak, and others quickly arrived and joined the firefighters.

While some citizens manned hoses within the building an army set to work to clear the office and nearby shops of all contents, which were carried farther along Alexander street and stacked' in shops.

A party of »small girls rendered valuable assistance. by procuring buckets of cool water and glasses and passing drinks to those affected by the heat.

With the blaze in. the hall at its height and in heat which rendered close approach impossible, the flames attacked the roofing of "The Re corder" main building, and swiftly spread to the machine room- which houses a battery of four costly lino types and two large printing presses.

Completely Gutted

From there the flames leaped to a large iron and asbestos lined store room at the rear, wherein were stacked several tons of paper, and in which two folding machines were established- Within an hour that building was completely destroyed. The stocks of newsprint were so seriously damaged as to render them useless for iprinting "The Recorder,"

The fire then raged under the roof of the main office, and was. attacked from both above and below, sheets of iron being ripped off to permit entry of the hoses. In that work the volunteers gave wonderful assist ance to the firemen.

During the operations Air. Nor man Herzich, of Pirie West, who was manning a hose with Messrs. J. Ulseth and J. Hodge, received a nasty burn on a leg and had an eye slightly burned. He received medical treat ment later.

Hundreds of persons lined the southern-' side of Alexander street to

watch the spectacle.

When the fire was at its height the changing wind carried some em bers across the street to the "vacant premises recently occupied by Mr. Stan Hudson, auctioneer, and owned by Thomas Bowdcn and Son. A small file was started at the rear, but fortunately was quickly noticed and extinguished.

All Records Lost

Practically everything connected with Rev. A. E. Vogt's mission work in Pirie, was destroyed in the fire. Included were two pianos and an old organ, all office records and equipment, and goods in store for less fortunate people we're" eaten up.

The hall, which also had done duty as a Sunday school, contained all the equipment of that branch.

Mr. Vogt, who with his wife and family had been holida3'ing at Lucin dale,. returned by car on Wednesday niglit.

The rear windows of the fine brick Central Church were broken by the intense heat, and at the height ©f the fire it was noticed that a door leading under the choir platform and church organ was smouldering. That danger was quickly averted and the

church saved.

Clearing operations at '-'The Re corder" Office were begun 011 Thurs day, with the staff augmented. The linotype machines had been saturated with water and had suffered from the heat, and the machine room was a mass of charred ruins.

In Rain and Gales

Operations were continued into Thursday night, when further mis fortune befell. _A south-westerly blow brought the long-dtlayed rain, and for the following 48 hours sal vaging and repair operations were performed in conditions of acute dis

comfort.

Machinery which already had 'been exposed to" water'from" th'e fire hoses, and whose parts had become rusted, was unprotected from the elements, and the howling wind 011 Friday and Saturday made work on the battered roofs both difficult - and' dangerous.

South Australian Railways officials and the management of Broken Hill Associated Smelters came to the res cue with the loan of heavy tarpaulins, which were rigged over the machines.

Through all those difficulties the mechanical staff worked day and night upon the delicately constructed machines, 'with Air. L. E. Pratt-in charge. They were completely dis mantled and each of the thousands of parts was carefully cleaned and polished ready for reassembling.

The weather cleared 011 Sunday, and for the first time since the out break four days before the staff was enabled to work under something like normal conditions.

A11 inquest into the fire will be held at Pirie Courthouse this morn ing, with Mr. H. A. Dicker as coroner.

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