Carapook Fire, 28th January 1900

Carapook and Muntham, S-W Victoria, Australia

"The Hamilton Spectator" (Vic.) Tuesday, 30th January 1900.

DESTRUCTIVE FIRE NEAR CARAPOOK. -- IMMENSE DAMAGE TO PROPERTY. -- SEVERAL HOMESTEADS DESTROYED. -- FARMERS COMPLETELY BURNT OUT.
(From Our Own Corresepondent.) Casterton, Sunday. -- The largest bush fire that has occurred in this district for years took place to-day, and did a very large amount of damage, completely burning out two farmers and damaging in a lesser degree many others. The fire started about 10 o'clock this morning, near a creek known as Turkey Bottom, in the vicinity of the township of Carapook, some eight miles from Casterton. From Turkey Bottom the fire entered the Phoines estate, the property of Mr. J. R. M'Pherson, and swept everything before it as it travelled towards the homestead, where it approached to within a quarter of a mile. From this point the fire entered the Bella Vista estate, owned by Mr. M'Donald. There were by this time a good many men on the ground from Casterton and other places, and they managed to divert the flames from the homestead. The wind, which was high all day, veered round a little, and the fire went back in tbe direction it had started from, taking another part of the Johnson estate and reaching Mr. Hutton's farm. Here commenced the work of ruinous devastation. Mr. Hutton had five stacks of grain, the produce of 150 acres, and all these were consumed together with the outhouses and part of his homestead. Mr. Hutton has been very unfortunate of late, for only a short time ago he lost his machinery and implements by fire. From Hutton's the devastating element went on to Gilbo's, and it was here that the greatest damage was done. Mr. Gilbo not only lost all his crop, which was cut and stooked, but his homestead consisting of an eight-roomed house, while the stable, sheds, barns, machines and implements were completely consumed. In fact he lost everything, and his wife and daughter had to seek for safety near a spring, where, by dint of throwing water constantly over themselves, they ensured their safety. From Gilbo's the fire went through M'Nicholl's [sic M'Nicol's], doing considerable damage, to grass and fencing. It then entered Arden's and consumed the woolsheds, besides doing other damage. Lee [sic Ley] and Cotter's farm was then devastated, the owners losing most of their crop, which was cut and stooked, but they saved their horses, one of which was a valuable stallion. The fire then crossed into Muntham Estate, entering the fattening paddock, but leaving the homestead safe on the right. The damage done on the Muntham Estate is not yet known, but it most have been considerable as the estate is so vast that it would be almost impossible with so little help at hand to materially check the fire. The flames were last seen making their way towards Coleraine. The men at the fire worked well under great difficulties. Their chief efforts were directed to saving homesteads and stock. It is more than probable that some stock has suffered a number of sheep were met here and there with their fleeces singed. At night the sky was illuminated for miles round, and the reflection quite lighted up the Casterton streets, though the scene of the fire was so remote. Owing to the exceptional brilliancy, some horsemen went out again to see if anything fresh had happened, and on returning reported that the fire was entering Wando Vale estate, and was again in Phonies, making in the directum of the homestead, it is estimated that several thousands of pounds of damage has been done.
Monday. -- Later news states that the fire went right through the Muntham estate, crossed the Coleraine road, jumped the Wannon River, and made its way through the Hilgay and Struan estates towards Merino.
The weather has now changed, and the morning has set in wet, which will, luckily, avert further disasters.

FURTHER PARTICULARS. (From Our Own Correspondent.)
COLERAINE, Monday. -- A very serious fire occurred yesterday in the neighbourhood of Carapook and Muntham. It appears to have started some where about Turkey Bottom, and spread thence through several holdings at Carapook, where it did serious damage, and on to Muntham, burning up to, and past both sides of the homestead. It crossed the Casterton road at the Muntham hill, and continuing southwards, was eventually stopped at the lower Sandford road, near Clover Flat. In addition to a large quantity of fencing lost, Messrs. Lee and Johnson, both of Carapook, are severe sufferers, losing between them about 300 acres of crop which was just being carted in. Mr. A. Arden had his woolshed burnt, while Mr. M'Nicol had 140 sheep burnt. Besides Muntham, Messrs. Cotter, Hutton and others in Carapook have lost a lot of grass and fearing.
LATER. -- During the progress of the Carapook fire Mrs. Gilbo's house and two buggies were entirely destroyed. The crop burnt was on ground leased on the share system by Messrs. Lee, Johnson and Cotter from Mr. M'Donald, of the Bella Vista estate. With the change of wind in the evening the fire broke out afresh, and burnt a quantity of grass on the estates of Messrs. Corney, Milburn and others.


"The Argus" (Melbourne, Vic.) Tuesday, 30th January 1900.
BUSH FIRES. -- SEVERE OUTBREAK. -- WESTERN DISTRICT AFFECTED. -- ENORMOUS DAMAGE. -- THOUSANDS OF SHEEP BURNT. -- SEVERAL NARROW ESCAPES.
HAMILTON, Monday. -- Sunday last will probably be marked in the annals of the Western District as the most disastrous that the residents have experienced since the outbreak of fires in all parts of the colony on Black Monday, some thirty years ago. A strong gale of wind commenced blowing from the north at an early hour in the morning, and fires appeared to spring up as if by magic at various points of the compass, till in the space of a few hours the town was almost surrounded with a dense ring of smoke. With the long grass and the high wind the conflagration, once fairly started, had everything in its favour, and the beaters felt that they were working against fearful odds.
Another extensive fire is reported from Casterton. It did a very large amount of damage, completely burning out two farmers and damaging in a lesser degree many others. The fire started about 10 o'clock yesterday morning, near a creek known as Turkey Bottom, in the vicinity of the township of Carapook, some eight miles from Casterton.
From Turkey Bottom the fire entered the Phoines Estate, the property of Mr. J. R. McPherson, and swept everything before it as it travelled towards the homestead, where it approached to within a quarter of a mile. From this point the fire entered the Bella Vista Estate, owned by Mr. McDonald. There were by this time a good many men on the ground from Casterton and other places, and they managed to divert the flames from the homestead. The wind, which was high all day, veered around a little, and the fire went back in the direction it had started from, taking another part of the Johnson Estate, and reaching Mr. Hutton's farm. Here it commenced a work of ruinous devastation. Mr. Hutton had five stacks of grain, the produce of 150 acres, and all these were consumed, together with the outhouses and part of his homestead. From Hutton's the devastating element went on to Mr. Gibbo's [sic Gilbo's] property, and it was here that the greatest damage was done. Mr. Gibbo [sic] not only lost all his crop, which was cut and stoocked, but his homestead, consisting of an eight-roomed house, while the stable sheds, bark, machines, and implements were completely consumed. In fact, he lost everything, and his wife and daughter had to seek for safety near a spring, where, by dint of throwing water constantly over themselves, they insured their safety.
From Gilbos the fire went through McNicholl's [sic McNicol's] Estate, doing considerable damage to the grass and fencing. It then entered Arden's and comsumed the woolsheds, besides doing other damage. Messrs. Lee [sic Ley] and Cotter's farm was then devastated, the owners losing most of their crop, which was cut and stacked; but they saved their horses, one of which was a valuable stallion. The fire then crossed into the Muntham Estate, entering the fattening paddock, but leaving the homestead safe on the right. The damage done on the Muntham Estate is not yet known, but it must have been considerable as the estate is so vast that it would be almost impossible with so little help at hand, to materially check the fire. Later news states that the fire went right through the Muntham Estate, crossed the Coleraine-road, jumped the Wannon River and made its way through the Hilgay and Struan estates towards Merino.
CASTERTON, Monday. -- A disastrous bush fire brokee out in the neighbourhood of Carapook, a fierce hot wind blowing at the time, and, despite the effort of a number of helpers, it swept over miles of country and through paddocks where the grass was waist-high. It started at a rabbiters' camp, while the men were boiling water for breakfast. The losses, as far as they can be tabulated, are as follows:--Mr. W. Hutton has lost his crop and 200 sheep; Mr. Norman McDonald, of Bella Vista, 1,600 acres of grass and ten miles of fencing; Mr. J. J. McNicol, of Rosedale, five miles of fencing, 300 sheep, and all his grass. By 11 o'clock the farms of Messrs. Ley and Cotter were all ablaze, and in less than two hours 200 acres of corn were devastated, the greater part of the crop having been stripped and bagged.
Two young men, named J. Cotter and J. Burchell, in endeavouring to save a stack of bagged wheat, were overpowered by the flames, and had a narrow escape. Messrs. Ley and Cotter estimate their loss at 1,500 bags. Mrs. Gilbo's property was completely swept, and she lost everything; the house, the shed, stable, reaper and binder, pigs, sheep, poultry, buggy, and seven stacks of grain all being destroyed. The residents, on the property narrowly escaped with their lives, and only got away with the clothes they were wearing. Mr. W. Gilbo, who was on a visit for the day, lost his buggy. Mr. Alfred Arden, of Rosebank, lost 200 acres of grass and fencing, besides a valuable woolshed which was only recently constructed, and which was uninsured. Mr. W. D. Davis is also a heavy loser of grass and fencing, the fire sweeping through his Burnbank property, and, but for the redoubled exertions of Mr. Braim, of Muntham, and his men, the cottages of Messrs. Burchell and W. McDonnell, of Carapook, must have fallen a prey to the flames.
The Carapook township was saved with great difficulty. Messrs. Stock Brothers lost 4,000 acres of grass, and a lot of fencing at the Turkey Bottom property, and it is feared that a number of sheep have also been destroyed. Mr. C. E. Lewis has lost over 400 acres, and Mr. Milburn 20 acres of hay and 1,000 acres of grass. Mrs. P. White lost 400 acres of grass. Mr. Ley, at one point of the fire, when it crossed the road, saw that the fate of Mr. McDonald's stallion "Strathclyde" was inevitably sealed, and raced the flames to the stable in order to release the animal. He just arrived in time to get the horse out.
The Muntham woolshed was only saved by the men burning the grass backwards from the shed, in order to meet the approaching fire. A relief party from the Merino Downs Estate travelled as speedily to the scene; but had scarcely arrived before they had to hasten off to their own property, as the fire leaped across the Coleraine-road, and surged forward with terrific force towards Merino Downs. Mr. Cameron, of Dunan, had a most eventful escape. The fire burnt all around him; but providentially missed his property. It travelled onward through Hilgong [sic Hilgay], and towards Struan and the Tahara Estate.
In the evening the reflection was so great that though ten miles distant, Casterton was lit up as if by moonlight. There was a good fall of rain to-day, nearly quarter of an inch being registered. The fire was thereby effectually checked.
MERINO, Monday. -- The fire which is raging at Muntham and Carapook burnt to within seven miles of Merino, and was ultimately stopped from invading the Merino Downs and Struan Estates by the River Wannon. The weather changed this morning, several showers having fallen, but the fires are not yet out.

"The Hamilton Spectator" (Vic.) Thursday, 1st February 1900.

THE CARAPOOK FIRE. -- Our Carapook correspondent furnishes us with the following details of losses by Sunday's fire:--The greatest sufferer is Mr. J. Gilbo, who has lost everything, stock, implements, including a new reaper and binder, two buggies and harness and his house, the inmates of which barely escaped with their lives, having to jump into a spring and roll in the water to keep their clothes from igniting. He also lost all his grain, which was stacked ready for the thresher. Mr. Hutton lost every blade of grass, about 200 worth of grain, 250 sheep and a great quantity of fencing, the house escaping by a miracle. A valuable horse belonging to Mr. T. Cawker was burned here. Mr. M'Nicol lost all his grass, about 200 sheep, some outbuildings and fencing. Mr. A. Arden, all his grass, a new woolshed and stables. The paling fence round the house caught but the helpers managed to get the fire under control and saved the house. Messrs. Ley and Cotter lost two-thirds of their crop ; they had 300 acres under cultivation on Bella Vista and quite 200 acres was burnt, a lot of the wheat being already bagged. It is a very serious loss to them. Mr. W. D. Davis loses all the grass and a large quantity of fencing on his Burnbank estate. Mr. N. M'Donald had 1500 acres of grass burnt and miles of fencing on Bella Vista. Mr. Thornley loses 4500 acres of Muntham with miles of fencing. Mr Doughney had great difficulty in saving his home and lost all his grass. Mr. Milburn lost every blade of grass and fencing. Mrs. P. White lost 400 acres of grass, and Mr. Leurs about the same amount. Mr. W. Humphreys, who had rented a part of Mr. Arden's estate for cultivation, lost the result of a year's labour, as all his stacks were burnt and he had the misfortune to lose his personal effects also, they being stored in Mr. Arden's woolshed. Hundreds of helpers came out from Casterton, Sandford and Coleraine and it was owing to the unremitting exertion of these helpers and others from the estates roundabout which prevented the fire from assuming much larger proportions. I have not been able to ascertain the damage done to the eastward, but I hear the Messrs. Corney, Pearce, Cameron, J. Melburn, and others are completely burnt out. In most instances the stock were on their camps, and thus saved themselves. The damage done can hardly be estimated yet. It was the most appalling fire that has ever occurred in this district. A meeting is to be held at the school on Friday evening, Feb. 2nd, to discuss matters pertaining to the recent fire, and to organise a scheme for attacking and preventing future outbreaks.

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