My uncle was a schoolteacher at Hazelbrook. He lived below Chateau Napier, a rented house four houses down. The fire jumped a few houses and burnt his house, then jumped down to the public school. He remembers that the fire approached the school down his street, not up the gully at the back as other people remember. They closed the school at Hazelbrook to go fight the fires.
My aunt was a nurse at San Souci, which became The Mountain Heritage in Gang Gang St Katoomba, at the top of Lovel St.
My uncle had a dog and cat that they’d brought with them from England, couldn’t bear to be parted from them. There is a SMH story about them bringing the animals with them on the ship to Australia – extra expense, then quarantine. The pets were in the house when the fire came. The neighbours smashed a window to see if could save any belongings. The dog and cat jumped out and disappeared.
My aunt and uncle were devastated and searched everywhere. After a week, they gave up searching. My uncle drove past to look at the house and found them sitting on the steps, waiting for him, their paws covered in soot. They had found their way home!
My parents and I were coming out on a ship at the time. We got a telegram: “House gone in fire. Sort out somewhere else to stay.” We arrived 3 weeks later.
My uncle transferred to Katoomba Primary and in January 58, he started up the Blue Mountains City Band, which had been defunct for 8 years. Good morale booster after fire. Ran for years. It is defunct again now.
My uncle says he was fighting the fire in Hazelbrook with four guys. The wind on the day was so changeable and kept swirling around. The wind suddenly took the embers up and over them and they were suddenly surrounded by fire. Very frightening, but they managed to escape.
He also said that the Leura shops in the Mall went first. The fire was coming up Jersey Ave and the Mall. They saw it coming up from the Jamieson. Then it crossed the Railway line and burnt the Chateau Napier.