William Booth Memorial Home fire

The William Booth Memorial Home fire occurred on 13 August 1966 at the William Booth Memorial Home for destitute and alcoholic men in Melbourne, Australia. With 30 dead, it remains the nation's deadliest building fire.[1]

William Booth Memorial Home fire
William Booth Memorial Home Fire 1966 Melbourne.jpg
The aftermath of the fire.
DateAugust 13, 1966 (1966-08-13)
VenueWilliam Booth Memorial Home
LocationMelbourne, Australia
Coordinates37°48′47″S 144°57′21″E / 37.8130°S 144.9558°E / -37.8130; 144.9558Coordinates: 37°48′47″S 144°57′21″E / 37.8130°S 144.9558°E / -37.8130; 144.9558
CauseIllegal heater


The fire started on the third floor after a boarder knocked over an illegal heater.[2] The fire smoldered for several hours in room #1 and exploded after a fellow boarder opened the room's door. A backdraft and flashover ensued, and fire and smoke engulfed the third and fourth floors.[2] Most of the 30 men who died were caged in their chain-link fencing-covered rooms and had no time to escape.[citation needed]

The Salvation Army staff delayed their call to the Melbourne Fire Brigade in the mistaken belief they could control the fire. Due to the late arrival of the ambulance service the fire fighters were tied up in resuscitating the victims, delaying the rescue attempts.[3][4][5][6]

Aftermath and remembranceEdit

On the 50th anniversary, 13 August 2016, a plaque was laid where the original building once stood. The ceremony was conducted by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade's Acting Deputy Chief Fire Officer Robert Purcell and Major Brendan Nottle from The Salvation Army. The plaque was paid for by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade.[7]

A service was then held at The Salvation Army Temple on Bourke Street. It was led by Major Brendan Nottle and replicated the service of 50 years ago which remembered the 15 deceased who were unclaimed by relatives.[8][9]

A mini documentary was made by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (Melbourne) featuring interviews with the fire fighters and footage of the conflagration.[10] A Movietone News clip was produced after the fire.[11]


  1. ^ Lord, Kathy (2016-08-13). "Remembering the victims of Australia's deadliest building fire 50 years on". ABC News. Retrieved 2020-02-28.
  2. ^ a b Webb, Carolyn (2016-06-03). "1966 Melbourne Salvation Army hostel fire that killed 30 a 'horrific moment' in history". The Age. Retrieved 2020-02-28.
  3. ^ "Towards a more disaster resilient and safer Victoria: Green Paper - Introduction". Government of Victoria. 18 April 2013. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  4. ^ "Let the Bums Burn: Australia's Deadliest Building Fire and the Salvation Army Tragedies". Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  5. ^ "29 Dead in Melbourne Home Fire. The Canberra Times, 15 August 1966".
  6. ^ Fire Protection Association Australia Magazine, Autumn 2015 "Blast From the Past: The William Booth Memorial Home Fire 1966"
  7. ^ "Strangers' tears for drifters forgotten in life and death". www.dailytelegraph.com.au. 2016-08-12. Retrieved 2020-02-28.
  8. ^ Webb, Carolyn (2016-06-04). "1966 Melbourne Salvation Army hostel fire that killed 30 a 'horrific moment' in history". The Age. Retrieved 2016-06-07.
  9. ^ "Strangers' tears for drifters forgotten in life and death". Retrieved 2016-08-20.
  10. ^ Metropolitan Fire Brigade Mini Documentary, "1966 William Booth Memorial Home Fire"
  11. ^ Movietone News,"Night Horror: 29 Men Killed in Melb Fire Tragedy"