Family heartbreak as memories go up in flames

JOHN EDENS
Last updated 05:00 09/06/2014
Frankton senior station officer Grant Bewley
JOHN EDEN

CHARRED REMAINS: Frankton senior station officer Grant Bewley says the old homestead was well alight when fire crews arrived. However, the more modern part of the home was saved.

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Homeowners in shock and heartbroken former residents watched in disbelief yesterday as an old Queenstown homestead was gutted by fire.

The property in Lower Shotover Rd, once a dairy on Cloverdale station, was built in the 1860s. The historic wooden-clad section of the property was destroyed by an intense fire but the modern end was saved by firefighting crews.

Four families have owned the property since it was built.

The fire started suddenly about 6.30am, when guests staying with homeowners Phillip and Jane George were woken by smoke alarms. They quickly raised their hosts and got out.

Despite the loss, the Georges were thankful that no-one was seriously hurt in the fire. Without smoke alarms, the outcome did not bear thinking about.

Phillip George told The Southland Times that Australian guests John Mills and Greg Clarke woke about 6.30am to find smoke filling the property.

"I came down and found the ceiling alight in the old part of the house . . . In my opinion, I think it was an electrical problem.

"The home we loved and cherished, and it's a tragedy for Queenstown to see such a historic home go up in flames."

The Georges moved into a Queenstown hotel yesterday, after watching their home burn. The property was insured for $5 million.

Lower Shotover resident Joan Allan arrived to find the charred remains of the homestead, where she lived for decades and which the Allan family called home for generations.

The homestead, previously part of a large station called Cloverdale, had a run of bad luck before the fire - a tree fell on the side of the building and a barn flooded on Saturday.

"We have happy memories; it was mainly owned by the Allans, generations of Allans. I just cannot believe it, it's just heartbreaking. I got to church and someone told me ‘your poor homestead is ablaze'," Allan said. "I must admit I shed a tear; there's all sorts of history. We used to have races in the front paddock and parties for the old folks."

Frankton senior station officer Grant Bewley said the building was fully alight when firefighters arrived. The two guests were taken to Lakes District Hospital and treated for smoke inhalation, he said."Our main mission was salvaging the front end of the building. There were a lot of expensive possessions saved. It's a wooden building so it was a huge glow in the sky."

A fire safety investigator was at the razed homestead yesterday.

john.edens@stl.co.nz

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