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by Chris Tobin

The Timaru CBD Group is planning to stage a “Timaru on Fire” event to mark 150 years since the town’s “great fire” destroyed much of the main street.

On Tuesday, the group asked the council to close Stafford St between Strathallan St and George St from 5pm to 8pm on Friday, December 7, to mark the event.

Nigel Gilkison of the CBD Group said the idea to commemorate the fire was suggested by the organisation’s subgroup, which was looking at events to draw people into the CBD.

It was hoped the fire service would take part and fire trucks would parade down Stafford St.

“It’s a chance to tell the story of the fire since it changed a high percentage of Timaru.”

On the morning of December 7, 1868, a fire started in a small workshop and spread to a neighbouring warehouse.

Fanned by a strong northwest wind, the fire spread rapidly, destroying 30 wooden buildings in what was called one of New Zealand’s most disastrous fires at that time.

By evening what had been a busy business area was reduced to a row of brick chimneys surrounded by piles of ashes.

Local building codes were changed as a result of the fire.

“New ordinances required buildings in the central business area to be made out of masonry, brick or stone.

“Because of that bylaw it developed a lot of the character of what we see in Timaru’s main street today,” Mr Gilkison said.