HomeHistoryGreat Fire of Childers remembered 120 years on

Great Fire of Childers remembered 120 years on

Great Fire of Childers
More than 20 buildings burnt to the ground and only a row of water tanks covered in ash left standing are the black and white images of the “great fire” of Childers.

Historic photos reveal the devastation caused by the “Great Fire of Childers” which impacted more than 20 businesses in the main street 120 years ago this week.

On the of evening of 23 March, 1902, the fire ripped through the business district leaving 23 buildings reduced to nothing more than ashes by the morning light.

Local history buff Scott Stedman has marked the 120th anniversary by sharing these images and the story of what he said he has named the Great Fire of Childers.

He has documented the history by researching local businesses, and newspaper clippings from the Isis Recorder.

Scott went on to publish his first book From the Ashes They Came which details the area's regrowth with a focus on the shop owners and traders in the wake of the 1902 fire which all but destroyed the town’s business heart.

Scott said, at the time, it was recorded that flames were seen from as far away as Cordalba, which was nine miles away, and he said it was amazing there were no fatalities.

Great Fire of Childers
The devastating Childers fire engulfed the main street 120 years ago on the of evening of 23 March, 1902, leaving 23 businesses reduced to nothing more than ashes by the morning light.

“The flames spread rapidly, it would have been an inferno of orange, as most of the buildings of the time were made from timber.

“That and the town was in the worst drought on record with no water supply,” he said.

“The first fire brigade came to Childers in 1940. There was no water supply from rivers, like Bundaberg and Maryborough had, and it was in the 1970s when a bore was established.

“It was definitely the teamwork of community members and South Sea Islanders that contained the fire.”

The fifth generation Childers man said he was astounded to know the pharmacist at the time of the Great Fire, Thomas Gaydon, was able to save some of his stock and returned to business the next day.

“Thomas Gaydon acquired a small shop set up on land now occupied by the Federal Hotel after he rescued some of his stock,” Scott said.

“It’s fascinating to know he was able to have more stock arrive from Bundaberg and Maryborough by train, and the next day he was trading again.

“He was very important to the town as he was an essential service, a dispensing chemist, but also the dentist and optometrist.”

Great Fire of Childers
At daybreak the scene presented in main street was a unique one, with the street and footway being littered with piles of merchandise and household effects,

Scott said he enjoyed retelling the significant events that had sculpted the town of Childers to what it is today.

“I enjoy keeping the history alive, explaining the heritage – we have some magnificent heritage buildings here in Childers,” he said.

In the latest version (2021) of the book From the Ashes they Came, the history of CBD businesses has been documented over the past 100 years and beyond.



  1. like the Great Fire of London, the Fire in Childers also bought about change. Within a matter of weeks, a number of affected title deeds were all transferred to one person, who in turn, recreated these into one parcel of land, then the area was resurveyed into a number of lots that were then in turn sold back to the title holders. the effect was to straighten the front boundaries along the frontage on each lot and pout the odd shaped triangular shape onto the rear boundary line. the source is an old survey map.

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