Today is the 62nd anniversary of the fire at the Ballantynes Department store in Christchurch. It was the worst fire in New Zealand’s history. Forty one people died and the resulting Royal Commission recommended urgent changes to the building regulations and fire prevention and firefighting throughout the country.
If you want to find out more about this tragic event, Christchurch City Libraries has a resource that features transcripts of articles from newspapers and other sources about the fire. It includes contemporary news reports.
The fire has also resonated with New Zealand fiction writers. Deborah Challinor’s novel Fire is a historical romance based on the Ballantynes Fire, but set instead in Auckland 1953.
Christchurch writer Stevan Eldred-Grigg’s 1993 book Gardens of Fire is based on historical research and:
looks at the very ordinary lives of very conventional shop workers and customers, yet lifts those lives into tragedy and mystery.
The victims of the fire are buried in the Ruru Lawn Cemetery in Bromley.