Saturday, 20 May 2017


The Brisbane Courier, 8 June, 1910.

A fire broke out early last evening on
the steamer Australic which is at present
berthed it Birt and Co's Wharf South
Brisbane. The South Brisbane Fire 
Brgade received the alarm shortly after 9
o clock, and turned out in full force
under Superintendent Cumming. They
were soon followed by a reel from the
Central Fire Brigade, under Superintendent 
Hinton, and later the 'steamer' was also 
despatched from the Central Fire Station. 
Mr Ellis (manager for Birt and Co), who are 
local agents for the vessel and Captain 
Colonna (acting Lloyd's surveyor in Brisbane) 
were communicated with, and arrived later. 
The firemen found a rather formidable blaze
in the after part of the ship, in the
'tween decks, where there was a cargo
consisting of 943 bags of copra loaded
at Sydney, and a quantity of hides and
sheepskins. It was in the copra that
the fire had broken out. The cause of
the outbreak is not definitely known, but
it is surmised that it was due to spontaneous 
combustion The combined brigades speedily 
set about their work, and before long had the 
water from several lengths of hose connected
with the Stanley street mains, playing
into the hold. Meanwhile men were sent 
down in pairs, protected by smoke
helmets, and were relieved about every
10 minutes. In this way the fire was more 
definitely located and more easily combated. 
To those on the deck the extent of the outbreak 
was not apparent, except from the thick volumes 
of mingled smoke and steam which came from 
the hold. The "divers" however stated that
the fire appeared to be solely in the extreme 
aft end of the vessel, and that it was not very 
extensive. Nevertheless, they recognized that 
the fight would be a severe one. At an early 
hour this morning the flames still had a good 
hold of the cargo but it was believed that they 
were being slowly but surely overcome. From 
what could be gathered last night, at the fore 
end of the vessel there is a quantity of general 
cargo and something over 100 bales of wool 
which have been loaded in Brisbane. The vessel
is loading general cargo and about 3000 bales 
of wool for Europe, and this is still to be stowed 
in the fore part of the ship.
This outbreak is similar to the one which 
occurred at South Brisbane several
years ago, when a cargo of copra in the
Bielefeld caught fire. In that case the
outbreak was extinguished after many
hour's work, the hold being eventually
The Australic is a Swedish-Australian
liner, of 4010 registered tonnage. She is
a steel-screw steamer, her dimensions being :- 
Length, 380ft.; breadth, 49ft.; and depth. 25ft. 
She was built in 1907 by Hawthorn, Leslie, and 
Co., Ltd., Newcastle, England. Capt. A. K. W. 
Holdtgren is in command. The vessel is at
present trading between Gothenburg, in
Sweden, and Australian ports, and during 
the past few weeks has been loading
and discharging cargoes at Southern ports.

Copra in jute bags is a risky cargo prone to spontaneous combustion. 

copra derived from coconuts

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