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Buchan Hotel gutted
Buchan Captain Peter White was woken by a late night call to respond to the pub on fire. He saw the glow in the sky as he pulled out of his driveway.
“I did the size up from there and saw there was no hope of saving the premises,” said Peter who is, unfortunately, also the pub’s co-owner. “We did what we could with what we had but it was all about asset protection.”
Incident: Structure fire
Date: 8 April 2014
Brigades: Buchan, Bruthen, Gelantipy, Lakes Entrance, Wairewa, Newmerella, Johnsonville, Traralgon, Bairnsdale
As first responder, Peter was the initial incident controller, sectorising the fire before passing the southern end and communications via Vic Fire to Lakes Entrance Captain Geof Bassett. Peter concentrated on the northern end of the fire where three large gas bottles presented a risk.
“Communications to and from the fireground were a challenge,” said Rostered Duty Officer Kevin Mann drove 75 kilometres from Bairnsdale to attend. “We also had one fire truck that had to dodge a deer on the way to the scene.
“The pub shut at 8:30pm so there was no one there when the call came in. The fire had already taken hold and it was mostly timber construction with numerous modifications. There was no internal firefight done – it was an external, defensive attack only. There was light drizzle falling in town but not enough to dampen down the fire.”
Four members of Buchan brigade did the initial protection of the buildings on either side with great work confining the fire to the pub. The town’s public hall and a café were saved. Johnsonville brigade was called for lighting while Bairnsdale provided breathing apparatus (BA) cylinders and Traralgon offered further BA support.
The fire was brought under control in about 90 minutes thanks to the work of 40 firefighters but the pub was destroyed and the incident wasn’t over yet. Geof then became the incident controller for the whole operation.
“With such a large damages bill, local detectives understandably wanted Forensics to come from Melbourne,” continued Kevin. “Crews stayed on scene putting out hot spots and flare ups and a joint fire investigation with CFA took place that afternoon. They weren’t able to determine the exact cause.”
“The insurance company is also doing a fire assessment,” says Peter, “so we hope they come to some conclusion.
“We will rebuild. The adrenaline kept going and going and I’ve already been to see the town planner, the building surveyor and the council’s emergency management person. The mayor came out to the site and said that any planning and building permits will be looked at quickly by council.
“This is a real blow to the town right before Easter. Buchan Caves is the biggest tourist drawcard in East Gippsland and tourism businesses will feel the effects because there’s now no eatery in town for dinners.
“The pub was the town hub and it was also full of local memorabilia. It was built in 1896 and there were display cabinets with footy and cricket trophies and photos going back a long way. It’s all gone.”
This fire follows a very busy season for Buchan. Multiple emergency warnings were issued for Buchan with the Jacksons Crossing Track fire burning to the east of town and Gil Groggin burning to the west.
Thanks to Carla Palmer for photos.