|Type of event||Natural Disaster|
|Street name||Kallora to Grace Plains|
|Town or locality|| Near Avon South Australia
Memories of the January 1948 fire by Mrs Maureen Parker – niece of Mrs Alan Gale, owner of the General Store and Post Office Calomba South Australia.
On January 22nd 1948 on a very hot windy day, a fire started on the railway corridor near Kallora with a spark from the coal fired train. Valerie Clark of Avon spotted the smoke about midday when taking the mail bags from the Avon Post Office to the Avon Railway Station to place on the train. Everyone in the vicinity was alerted via the manual switchboard. The fire quickly reached Long Plains and every available man was there trying to save the town including the men from Calomba. The Church of Christ building just out of the Long Plains township was razed to the ground.
The fire raced to Calomba and 20 women and children sought safety in a fallow paddock while the flames passed around them. The Calomba Store and Post Office, residence and sheds were completely destroyed. The only persons in the building were Mrs Betty Howard and a young female assistant and they had to run and seek refuge in the paddock when the outer sheds burnt down and the house and store caught alight.
The local people praised the efforts of a small squad of R.A.A.F. personnel from the RAAF Mallala Training Base who attended with their fire truck and vigorously fought the flames to save some houses and also the wheat stacks which held the district's harvest of 50,000 bags of grain.
The following day the Advertiser quoted Mr Jack Howard as saying: “We will build things up again. As agent I have continued to receive wheat and barley today. More than 500 bags were delivered.”
The Chaff Mill owned by Mr Syd Good was razed but the RAAF squad saved his home. Mr Good was away from home but his wife successfully moved ten dairy cows to safety before getting herself to the fallow paddock and collapsing.
The Postal Department technicians were at the Calomba siding the next day and soon erected a very small shed to serve as a temporary post office.
Mrs Maureen Parker continues" I have written about being on holiday at Pt Vincent with Uncle Allan Gale and the Williams and Snow Bakers and Brosters at the time of the fire, and how the menfolk went home to see what damage was done when they heard about the fire. Also how Uncle Allan's dog led the horse and cow back to the farm several days later, no fences and blackened roads etc. so Uncle Allan was very proud of his dog. Glen Jenkin, my cousin saw the tank at the Calomba store boiling. There were other stories ."
In 1946 Mr John Howard and Mrs Elizabeth Howard (Jack and Betty) purchased the business and so began a period of ownership by the Howard family which lasted for twenty eight years.
Mrs Winnie Howard (nee Daniel) reminisces: “People came from everywhere to help the Howard family. Jack and Betty and son Tony initially lived with Jim and Doris McEvoy immediately following the fire, and then lived on the premises in an iron shed while they built the shop and post office first and then the residence. The walls of the shop were made of concrete to make them fireproof. Tony was proud of himself when he built a brick wall of the residence only to find it had blown down the next day ! Undeterred he kept trying and eventually (with help from friends) the Calomba Store and Post Office were operational and the residence completed.”
The fire continued on heading straight toward Mallala township and approximately 6 kilometres from Mallala the wind changed and sent the fire North/North East towards Grace Plains.
Various interventions weakened the fire and a stand was made on Nairn Road by local people and the RAAF personnel and fire brigade, and the Kallora fire was finally extinguished.
- Local news paper
- Mallala Museum records
- Local identities