A year ago, Bundaberg publican Stephen Paterson sat in a gutter watching his beloved pub slowly burn to the ground.
- Bundaberg marks the first anniversary of a fire that destroyed a popular pub and hostel
- Managers of Federal Backpackers hostel reveal plans for new worker accommodation
- Legislation changes regarding fire safety were hailed as the reason no lives were lost
“Everything we dreamed of and built from nothing was gone,” Mr Paterson said.
On July 20 last year fire crews responded to an alarm at 11:00pm to find the Spotted Dog pub — and the neighbouring 140-year-old Federal Backpackers — engulfed in flames.
Miraculously, more than 60 hostel guests escaped unharmed.
Pato, as he is fondly known, spent the following three months embroiled in insurance claims and pondering his future and he was encouraged to remain in hospitality.
“I would’ve liked to retire and tow a caravan but instead I’ve gone back into debt, my staff wanted me to come back and customers were asking — so I thought let’s do it again.”
Federal finds a new home
The famous facade of the Federal Backpackers stood proudly in Bundaberg for more than a century and while a building so grand is difficult to replace it also has a new home.
Federal Backpackers Manager Antoinette Grima said after many setbacks they found the Tatts Hotel in Bundaberg South and were in the process of renovating the accommodation.
There is currently a short supply of backpackers due to COVID-19 border restrictions but the new look Federal Backpackers has a commitment to accommodate visiting farmworkers.
“Initially we will be focusing on the Pacific Islanders but it is seasonal so once they move on we will focus on backpackers and pub accommodation in between.”
Childers tragedy forced life-saving changes
The strict law changes introduced for hostels after the Childers Palace Backpacker fire — 20 years earlier in 2000 — have been praised for saving lives.
Bundaberg Station Officer Trevor Duncan said the alarm system and external staircase meant lives were not lost in the Federal Backpacker fire.
Mr Duncan believed it should send a positive message.
Investigations revealed the fire started in the pub kitchen — but the exact cause remained unknown.
It was not clear what would happen with the vacant block opposite the Bundaberg Railway Station where the Federal Backpackers and Tavern once stood.
Bundaberg Regional Council said it has no active development applications proposed for the site.