Heritage-listed RSL building in Australia gutted by blaze just days before Anzac Day

Fire has gutted the Ivanhoe RSL in Melbourne, Australia,  just days before Anzac Day.
Justin McManus / The Age

Fire has gutted the Ivanhoe RSL in Melbourne, Australia, just days before Anzac Day.

A large fire has destroyed a heritage-listed RSL building in Australia with six fire crews battling the giant blaze.

Firefighters were called to the RSL club in Ivanhoe, Melbourne's east, about 6.40am on Friday with large flames engulfing the building.

Photos from the scene show flames and thick smoke swallowing the two-storey building. 

Lizzy James, centre, owns a yoga studio in the RSL building. There was a class in progress when the fire started.
Justin McManus / The Age

Lizzy James, centre, owns a yoga studio in the RSL building. There was a class in progress when the fire started.

The blaze was brought under control shortly before 8am but the building appears to have been gutted by the fire.

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It is unclear what sparked the blaze.

Firefighters assess the damage to the Ivanhoe RSL on Friday morning.
Justin McManus / The Age

Firefighters assess the damage to the Ivanhoe RSL on Friday morning.

The cruel turn of events for the local RSL community comes just days before Anzac Day.

Club President Fred Cullen, 96, was selling Anzac Day pins in the city when he learnt of the fire.

A significant amount of memorabilia has been lost in the fire, and a number of improvements on the property were only just completed.

The 1913 Ivanhoe RSL before the blaze.
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The 1913 Ivanhoe RSL before the blaze.

Several women were attending a 6am yoga class inside the building when the fire broke out.

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Committee member and secretary Jackie Maud lives with her husband in a cottage on the property and said she was woken by a yoga teacher banging on their front door.

"It's very devastating," she said. "We were all looking forward to our Anzac Day march and unfortunately we've lost a lot of our memorabilia."

"It's only just been painted. The billiard room was being done and we had all new carpet put through. It's all gone."

Studio Yoga owner Lizzy James said people heard a loud bang around 6.20am but ignored it until they smelt smoke a short time later and called triple zero.

"They opened the door to the studio and saw smoke and fire at the end of the hallway."

Maud's husband was treated for smoke inhalation while a neighbouring property was evacuated.

James said the blaze was devastating and that burnt building was "absolutely stunning".

"It's the only RSL in Victoria that's owned by the members and it's gone," she said.

"Not to mention all the Anzac Day memorials and everything are on next week so I don't know what they're going to do about that."

In a Facebook post announcing the fire, Ivanhoe RSL said commemorative events next Tuesday had been cast into doubt.

"It is with great sadness that I must inform everyone that last night/this morning our historic club house suffered extensive fire damage."

"Little is known at this stage as to just how bad the damage is, what caused the fire or how this effects our upcoming AGM, ANZAC Day ceremonies and events."

Tributes have flooded the club's Facebook page, including from RSL clubs interstate.

One person called the blaze "heartbreaking".

"Our deepest sympathies to you all over the fire that has struck your club we will be thinking of you all, from all the members from the Coober Pedy RSL," wrote one man.

Firefighters brought the blaze under control within an hour, but it was not enough to save the Queen Anne-style residence from severe damage.

A large number of people from the community have gathered at the scene to offer their support. Nearby high school Ivanhoe Girls' Grammar has reportedly offered to host Anzac Day ceremonies.

"They've been fantastic," Maud said.

The building, named Clarivue, has significant architectural importance to the Heidelberg and Ivanhoe area.

It is described as the grandest of the early Medieval Domestic Revival houses in Heidelberg in a submission to Heritage Victoria.

Builder John W Brown constructed the house for Fitzroy timber merchant Wallace Stone in 1913.

 - The Age

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