A city mourns: Ballantynes’ Fire: 18 November 1947

This Sunday marks the 65th anniversary of the disastrous fire at Ballantynes. The fire changed from a cellar fire into an inferno that cost 41 lives and destroyed the store, which occupied a number of inter-connected buildings in the commerical heart of Christchurch. Photos taken at the time demonstrate the tremendous efforts both fire fighters and volunteers made to try to control the fire, and power of it once it passed ‘flashover’.

Following the funeral, a memorial garden was established at the Ruru Lawn cemetery at Linwood.  Unfortunately the memorial has been badly damaged in the earthquakes, but Chistchurch City Council staff are working on plans to repair it.  Photos taken prior to the earthquakes have been recently added to New Zealand History Online and were supplied from Council files.

The library has several books on the fire. Even so long after the event, reading an account of the event is still pretty harrowing – Walker’s The Ballantyne Fire disaster had me blinking back tears.

Battling the flames tense firemen in action. Rescuing Mr K. Ballantyne from the burning building on Colombo Street, Christchurch   Firemen dampening down the main entrance of Ballantyne's building, Christchurch View of still-smoking Ballantynes after the fire of 1947 Aerial view of the gutted shell of the three-storied department building

A city mourns the 41 victims as they are carried through the streets of Christchurch on the way to the civic funeral

Rose, Insite

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