Sir William Alfred Brand (1888-1979) was a cane grower and politician. He was the Member for Isis during the fire of 1950.
Sir William Alfred Brand (1888-1979) was a cane grower and politician. He was the Member for Isis during the fire of 1950.

1950: The year fire plunged Childers into total darkness

THE Childers power station was destroyed by a roaring inferno on the evening of Black Friday, January 13, 1950.

As a result the town was left with out electricity and its water supply dropped to dangerously low levels, further drained by efforts to extinguish the fire.

The fire engine was quickly on the scene and volunteers tried unsuccessfully to move drums of oil and other inflammable articles from the power house before the flames gained too great a hold.

Fanned by a strong south-easterly breeze, the first spread swiftly and just one partly-filled drum of petrol was saved.

After two hours only the shell of the building was left standing.

One eye witness told the News and Mail it was a huge fire.

"Just what you would expect when a shed with a lot of oil drums in it goes up" he said.

Member for Isis William Brand said the fire was a serious blow, especially for businesses which would lose refrigerated stock.

The town was plunged into darkness about 9pm.

At the time Dr Ross McGregor was treating a patient with a cut wrist at the Childers Hospital. He had to finish stitching the wound by torchlight.

Nurses at the hospital, which contained about 20 patients, shared several torches and one hurricane lamp.

It was not known how much water was in the hospital well or how long it would last.

Dr McGregor said the main problem was sterilising of instruments which was done with electricity.

Surgical cases might have to be transferred to Bundaberg or Maryborough, he said.

The two girls on the all-night shift at the telephone exchange were rescued from the darkness by a man who used the public telephone and gave them his torch.

Police also worked by hurricane lantern.

The local picture theatre continued with its program, using power from its own lighting plant. Several shops opened after the fire to supply people with candles and hurricane lamps.

Ironically lines for the Wide Bay Regional Electricity Board's new power scheme had been extended as far as Childers.

But even if the gap from Maryborough to Howard could be temporarily bridged, Maryborough's alternating current (AC) would be useless in Childers' direct current (DC) installations.

On January 16 the NewsMail reported burglars had been busy during the progress of the fire and subsequent blackout.

The railway station and three business houses were entered but the thieves got little for their trouble, snapping off the railway safe handle.

The paper praised the splendid effort by the Wide Bay Regional Board and the Queensland Electricity Commission which enabled power to be switched on in Childers on Sunday.

A large generator offered on loan by Evans Deakin and Coy Ltd was rushed from Brisbane by motor transport.

At midday the power was switched on and connected up to the hospital, and other essential services.

The township was lit once again that night, but lighting was restricted.

Private homes were allowed one light and cafes two lights.

Police said they were satisfied the blaze was caused accidentally.

 

This story was originally published in the 110 Years of News book.