Hotel will go on
Saturday, 13th February, 2021
By Myles Burt
The Tibooburra Hotel has burnt down leaving only its sandstone shell after a fire broke out overnight around 11.30pm on Wednesday.
Emergency services were called to Tibooburra, 330km north of Broken Hill, after reports the hotel was fully aflame.
Fire crews attended and continued to extinguish the fire; however the hotel has been destroyed.
Two men, aged 27 and 51, were flown to Adelaide by the Royal Flying Doctor Services in a serious but stable condition with burns to their face, body and hands.
A third man, aged 74, was flown to Broken Hill Hospital for treatment to serious lacerations.
Barrier Police District officers attended and established a crime scene with a Post Blast Investigator attending the scene on Thursday.
Tibooburra Hotel owner Tracey Hotchin said the fire started in the shed at the back of the pub.
Due to strong easterly winds the flames were carried towards the kitchen and dining room, eventually climbing into the eaves of the two storey roof.
Ms Hotchin said it’s still unknown what cause the fire, with police treating the incident as not suspicious.
“It’s just blown me away as to how a fire that started in the shed has got to where it’s gotten,” Ms Hotchin said.
“If it wasn’t for the wind and the gas bottle blowing up it probably wouldn’t have taken the pub, I don’t think, that’s just the theory of what the workers that were here have said to me.”
Ms Hotchin said her goal is to rebuild the 139 year old pub, having grown up at the pub and eyeing it off since she was 18 years old until finally purchasing it with her husband Craig in 2014.
Built in 1882 as Tibooburra’s first pub, the hotel was previously owned by her grandfather Bill Kennewell and great grandfather Walter Kennewell.
Ms Hotchin, being a fifth generation Tibooburran, said she’s lost a lot of history of her grandfather from the fire, but is determined to see what can be recovered to make sure Tibooburra always has a two storey hotel.
She hopes it can come back bigger and better.
“We will rebuild, we will pull it out of the ashes,” Ms Hotchin said.
“It’s heartbreaking but I know we can bring it back, and we can operate and we can make it what it was.”
Ms Hotchin said she’s in good spirits knowing she’s got a good family and community behind her.
A fact that was definitely shown as Rural Fire Service Crews were aided by contractor workers and locals all night to help but the blaze out.
Tibooburra residents helped the best they could, with contractors rushing water tankers out to help the RFS, locals cooking meals for fire crews in the early hours of the morning and locals rushing out to the airstrip to shoo away kangaroos so that RFDS could land safely.
Ms Hotchin said she’s overwhelmed by the support but not surprised, as anyone who know’s Tibooburra is aware that this is how the community operates.
“Doesn’t matter what it is in the community, everybody always pulls in to help,” Ms Hotchin said.
“We just do it, we don’t have the facilities like Broken Hill or cities and stuff and I think that’s the good part about Tibooburra, it doesn’t matter what’s going on.
“The outpour of people wanting to help, people willing to just be here and the people that were fighting the fire the other night, you know you don’t ask anybody everybody’s just there, it’s great.
“The people that I’m worried about are just the three that are injured, but I’ve got notifications at the moment that they’re all doing fine.”
Tibooburra local and Border Fence Maintenance officer Phyllis Ainsworth said the fire began around 10.30pm.
She travelled in after hearing her father Tibooburra RFS captain John “Johnny” Ainsworth was injured fighting the fire.
Ms Ainsworth said fire crews, contractors and locals were doing the best they could as the pub was fully ablaze by the time she arrived.
“We had a couple of contractors who were working in town, they were helping us out with water tankers,” Ms Ainsworth said.
“They were pumping from their water tankers into our fire appliance and we were fighting fire that way.
“As one truck emptied they just pulled up with another one and kept filling us up, so yeah they were great support.”
Ms Ainsworth said most of the community were in bed Thursday afternoon after staying up all night to help fight the fire and support fire crews.
Ms Ainsworth said while locals will definitely notice the pub is missing and are saddened by the horrible fire, locals will band together to help out Tracey and Craig and the three people who were injured during the pub fire.
“People out here don’t give up that easy, everyone around the district will rally behind Tracey and Craig,” Ms Ainsworth said.
“She put a lot of blood, sweat and tears making it as beautiful as it was so hopefully she’s still got it in her to redo it again.
“We saved it as best as we could, all the well wishes for the couple of lads that were injured.”