Today in history: 'Fire-bug' blamed as four businesses razed

ON THIS day (January 5) in Gladstone history: 

1938:

Damage running into many thousands of pounds was caused by a fire which destroyed four large business premises in the centre of the town early this morning.

The outbreak commenced in the warehouse of H and J Friend, Pty Ltd, general merchants, one of the largest stores in Central Queensland, which was gutted.

The fire also destroyed the premises of CD Patrick, jeweller, Miss B Tait, hemstitcher, the Port Curtis Motor Co., and EJ Masterson, chemist.

A strong wind fanned the flames and soon Friend's premises were a mass of flames and the Fire Brigade was unable to save it and other buildings.

The firemen, however, did splendid work in preventing it spreading to a cafe nearby.

The origin of the fire is unknown, but a nightwatchman, who patrols the main shopping centre, reported to the police that he saw someone in Friends' yard shortly before the fire broke out. Mr A. H. (Arthur Henry) Friend stated that they had taken every precaution to prevent and outbreak of fire, and he emphatically stated it did not start inside the premises.

He said there was a "fire-bug" in town, and he hoped that no stone would be left unturned until he was unearthed. Mr Friend expressed the company's sympathy for the loss occasioned also to neighbouring tradespeople - Mr C. D. Patrick, Mr Fred Williams of Port Curtis Motors, Mr E. J. Masterson and Miss B. Tait.