Hearts in our mouths: Bundaberg’s worst fears as backpacker hotel burned

More than 60 people escaped a fire that took hold of a backpackers hostel and nearby pub in Bundaberg in central Queensland.

Jul 21, 2020, updated Jul 21, 2020
Emergency services workers fight the blaze at Bundaberg's Federal Backpackers (Picture Qld Ambulance Service)

Emergency services workers fight the blaze at Bundaberg's Federal Backpackers (Picture Qld Ambulance Service)

The Federal Backpackers and Spotted Dog Tavern were evacuated about 11pm on Monday and several roads were closed around Bourbong St, Bundaberg Central.

“Thankfully, all residences have been accounted for and there are no injuries reported,” Queensland police said in a statement.

The fire has been contained, but because of the damage, several roads will remain closed.

Bundaberg Mayor Jack Dempsey said the community had their “hearts in our throats” when news first broke of the blaze.

“It was certainly pleasing to see those involved were able to evacuate people safely,” he said.

The Federal Backpackers in Bundaberg was extensively damaged by fire but dozens of residents escaped (Pic: Supplied,
Queensland Police).

The public is being asked to avoid the Bundaberg Central area bound by the Burnett River, Maryborough Street, Woongarra Street and Burrum Street while residents within the zone are urged to follow the advice of emergency services on the ground.

QFES Area commander John Pappas said crews were faced with a “deep seated” blaze and labelled it a “terrible event”.

“It’s one of the biggest fires we’ve seen in the Bundaberg area in some time,” he said.

Mr Pappas said both the pub and hostel were “totally destroyed”.

“It is a total loss.

“The fire took hold in all levels of the backpackers,” he said.

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Mayor Dempsey said the backpackers have been safely relocated into new accommodation.

“My thoughts are with the migrant workers and business owners who have been affected by this terrible event,” Cr Dempsey said.

“I would like to thank all emergency services and council staff involved for their great work.”

Dempsey said seeing such an “iconic building” in ruins was a major loss for the town.

“It certainly strikes at the heart of the community,” he said.

“People will have memories going back over 100 years with these particular buildings.”

Less than a month ago the town marked the twentieth anniversary of the nearby Childers backpacker hostel fire that killed 15 people.

The cause of the blaze has not been determined.

-AAP, additional reporting ABC

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