History goes up in flames

April 19, 2018

The former Lake Hotel, as pictured here by an unknown photographer around the 1880s. The hotel which occupied the attractive building on the corner of the Northern Hwy and the Nagambie Rd was first licensed in 1869 and sated the thirsts of locals from Costerfield and the southern end of Heathcote for a remarkable 112 years

the licence having been surrendered in October 1969. Since then it has been a private residence. Sadly, the building was badly damaged by fire on Saturday morning. Photo: Lake Hotel [Heathcote, Vic.]. National Library of Australia.

ONE of Heathcote’s most historic buildings was gutted by fire on Saturday morning.

The former Lake Hotel, now a private residence, on the corner of Heathcote-Nagambie Rd and the Northern Hwy caught fire at about 10am. It took two local units with support units from Knowsley, Pyalong, Costerfield, Mia Mia, Junourton and Axedale more than two hours to extinguish the flames.

The fire started due to an electrical fault on the exterior of the house where the SEC lines join the building.

It is believed a build-up of dust which became damp caused the blaze.

“Two contractors passing by saw the wires on fire and let the occupants know, so our original call out was to a report of the electrical wires on fire,” Heathcote CFA captain Carl Watkins said. “When we arrived on the scene the building was on fire and there was smoke coming from the ridge at both ends of the building.

“It took off pretty quickly because it started on the northern side of the house and the wind was blowing it back onto the building.”

The two-storey section of the building was extensively damaged but the structure of the single-storey section was saved.

The building has been standing since the gold rush and its owner had just completed extensive renovations – including, it is believed, the old bar.

Mr Watkins applauded the quick thinking of the two members of the public who noticed the flames.

“The residents who were in the house didn’t know it was on fire, if it was five minutes later before someone told them, it could have been a different story,” he said.

The Northern Hwy was blocked in both directions because of smoke over the road and the need to access a fireplug on the opposite side. Traffic on Heathcote-Nagambie Rd was redirected for about four hours.

KAT Fry, whose family owned the residence, posted on the Heathcote Town Crier they were still missing their two pet cats — one old tortoiseshell with no nose that goes by the name of Fifi and a dark tortoiseshell called Libby.

Ms Fry also thanked the CFA and emergency services ‘‘and the lovely young couple that tried to help me put in out in the start’’.

‘‘The fire started by God according to a CFA man; the connection from the electrical wire to the outside of the house started a flame, on the Nagambie side road,’’ she wrote.

‘‘If there is dust and then a bit of dampness it causes it to heat up and short. If it had poured rain instead this would have never happened. Fate can be horribly cruel.

‘‘If it ever went I thought it would have been in a bushfire, not on a rainy April day.

‘‘Thanks to those wonderful Heathcote residents who have shown concern, we are all devastated beyond belief.’’

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