The year (1947) of the Ballantyne’s fire, it was regarded as one of the worst disasters Christchurch and New Zealand had faced.
This photo of some of the firefighters that day tells the story in itself. The fire started down stairs in the furniture area and quickly spread through the three story department building. As thousands watched horrified, they saw staff and customers perished in the flames that were 100 feet in height at times. A few jumped from the windows and others rescued by firemen, even while a few of the ladders actually caught fire.
The fire was so full on that the heat of it cracked windows of other shops up to 73 metres away. Two blocks of shops and streets were cleared and closed.
The fight to stop it from spreading to other buildings took a few hours and the crashing of falling iron and falling power lines did little to calm the nerves of the witnesses.
41 people lost their lives that day. The current Ballantynes is still on that fateful site, the corner of Cashel Mall and Colombo Street.
*Photos courtesy of http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/ *