BULAWAYO, Tuesday, September 20, 1966 — First people to realise the Selborne Hotel, Bulawayo, was on fire late on Sunday afternoon, were the police on duty at the central charge office. They smelt it. Two constables hurried across to investigate.
About the same moment, every telephone in the hotel started ringing, and the receptionist sent another employee upstairs to investigate. Mrs King, wife of the proprietor, said yesterday that the probable cause was a spark from the boiler furnace flying between the ceiling and the corrugated roofing of the hotel. The fire brigade was magnificent, she said.
“They got the blaze under control within an hour — though it was about two hours before they were satisfied it was all out”.
Six bedrooms, all with bathrooms, are out of commission as a result of the fire. Two-bedroom bathroom suites were burnt out — ceilings, floors, baths, basins and furniture destroyed. One-bedroom bathroom was slightly damaged. Three others are inaccessible as the passage leading to them was destroyed. But none of these rooms was occupied. “In that we were very fortunate”, Mrs King said.
“There might have been a tragedy”. No assessment has yet been made of the damage. Mrs King said the police cleared the hotel of residents and staff, and sent them across the road while the firefighters were at work. It was bitterly cold outside, so she put some of the residents, including the author and the poet, Mrs Greta Bloomhill, into cars and packed them with blankets.
Mrs Bloomhill,(71) and in failing health said yesterday she was “not a bit scared”.