Newspaper article The Observer (Gladstone, Australia)

Grand Old Memories Reignited; 25 Years after Gladstone's Most Significant Structural Fire, Firies Recall That Fateful Day in History

Newspaper article The Observer (Gladstone, Australia)

Grand Old Memories Reignited; 25 Years after Gladstone's Most Significant Structural Fire, Firies Recall That Fateful Day in History

Article excerpt

christine mckee

THE writing was on the wall from the moment the first fire crews arrived on the scene.

The grand old lady of Goondoon St was well-engulfed in flames and there would be no possibility of saving her.

It was 25 years ago on May 18, 1993, when The Grand Hotel was destroyed in the most significant structural fire in Gladstone's history.

In the following day's The Observer and the mayor criticised fire crews for taking 30 minutes to respond.

The reality was quite different.

As the growing crowd watched in horror, half-an-hour after the fire started, still no-one had called 000.

It seems that everyone assumed someone else had.

The call centre at Gladstone Fire Station logged the call for help at 1.58pm and crews were on scene within three minutes - 40 minutes after Barry Maluga's mother reported seeing the smoke from Toolooa St.

Today Inspector Maluga is the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Biloela area director but in 1993 he was officer-in-charge of the third fire crew to arrive on scene.

"There was a lot of people standing on the footpath watching," he said.

"It became a bit of an attraction and people were driving into town to watch.

"When I first arrived, I couldn't find the officer-in-charge or any officers, so I walked into the lounge. There were beers still on the bar, meals on the tables."

More than 35 men battled the fire and to save the adjoining building.

And as they did, a growing realisation spread through town that a part of Gladstone's history and culture was being lost forever.

Insp Maluga said it was hard to know whether the building could have been saved if emergency services had been called sooner.

"It's possible but that's speculative," he said.

"It was an old building with very hard, dry timber and a brick facade. The fuel load was enormous."

Now a retired inspector, David Young was off duty and at his father's house in Bramston St when he heard The Grand was on fire.

He headed straight to the fire station.

By the time he arrived at the top of Goondoon St, the top floor of the hotel was well ablaze and smoke was billowing. …

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