Town’s great fire to be remembered 100 years later
By Christine McKay
MONDAY, October 22, 1917, was a disastrous day in Dannevirke’s history, and 100 years later the Gallery of History will be mounting a display to remember the town’s great fire.
When shopkeepers put up their shutters one Saturday evening in October that year, little did they know many of them would have no shutters to take down, no business premises to open and nothing to display for sale by the time Tuesday morning came around.
The fire, which destroyed 35 buildings on either side of High St, from Hall St to Barraud St south, was believed to have started at the back of Andrews’ Hotel (now the site of KFC).
Heat from the flames melted the tarseal on High St, before a sudden gust of wind pushed the fire across the road, igniting the original Masonic Hotel.
The flames extended from Neagle’s shop to Collet and Son’s iron foundry, the coaching stables and along to Priors.
“It’s an important time in our town’s history and I’m hoping families may have kept alive stories from 100 years ago which could be used as part of our commemoration,” Nancy Wadsworth, president of the Dannevirke Gallery of History, said.
“While we have reports from the Dannevirke Evening News, I think there must be stories which have been shared about that terrible time which could add a richness to our display.”
The fire caught most residents and firefighters off-guard and, unfortunately, fire brigade members soon discovered they were up against something their gear and apparatus could not cope with, and shop after shop was lost.
Firefighters from Dannevirke were joined by others from Woodville and Waipukurau and eventually the wind dropped, helping them gain control.
There were losses of about £250,000 for the buildings that were destroyed, with fire-insurance cover of just £77,000.
Time to remember
If you have information, stories or photos from the great fire, contact Nancy Wadsworth or other Gallery of History staff on 06 374 6300.
Photo caption – LABOUR DAY FIRE: The ruins of Andrews’ Hotel after the great fire of Dannevirke on October 22, 1917.