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A Dangerous Fire: 7 March 1810
On Wednesday last, a very serious accident (the cause of which is still unknown) occurred in Sydney Cove, which had nearly occasioned the loss of His Majesty's store-ship Dromedary, a very fine vessel, formerly a 33-gun frigate. About five o'clock P.M. she was discovered to be on fire in the lower tier; and notwithstanding every exertion which could be possibly made, it was not finally extinguished till near 12 o'clock. The fire must have continued for a considerable time before it was observed, as the smoke issued suddenly from her stern in thick clouds, and the lower deck was so warm as nearly to prevent the sailors from standing on it. Eight feet and a half deep of water was introduced into her hold by scuttles cut in her side, pumps, buckets, &c. before they dared venture to open the hatches of the next deck, least the influx of air should have accelerated the progress of the flames, and the ascending smoke have suffocated every one near to it. Fortunately the gun-powder had been deposited in the Government Magazine on her arrival here, otherwise she must have exploded. When access was at length had to the seat of the fire, the spirits (of which there was a large quantity) were found so heated as to be nearly boiling, and some of the casks so much burned that a Gentleman pushed his finger with the slightest touch through one of them into the spirits; of course they must have been in imminent danger of catching the flame; and had this taken place the ship must have been inevitably destroyed.
The alarm was early communicated to Government House, where a numerous party of Military and Naval Officers and other Gentlemen were sitting at dinner. Ceremony, on such an occasion, was easily dispensed with, and every person ran to render what assistance he could on an occasion threatening not only destruction to the ship herself, but to the various other ships lying close by her. Capt. Pasco, of H.M.S. Hindostan, Capt. Porteous, of the Porpoise, and Mr. Pritchard, Master Commanding the Dromedary, all went on board with utmost dispatch, and their unremitting exertions finally stopped the progress of this destructive element. Col. O'Connell, Commodore Bligh, & Col. Foveaux stood on the beach along which the Dromedary had been towed, giving such commands as the occasion required, and rendering very essential service by their judicious directions. Reports were regularly made at short intervals to His Excellency the GOVERNOR, who, with his Lady, beheld the whole scene from the viranda [sic] of Government House, full of anxiety, not only for the fate of the ship herself, but that of the other shipping, and the numerous lives which must have been lost in case of her destruction. Mr. Pritchard, who is rather inclining to corpulency, was seen exerting himself with all the activity of youth itself, giving his commands in every quarter of the ship, most ably assisted by Captains Pasco and Porteous, and the other Officers of H.M. ships, to whom it is much owing that this fine vessel was rescued from the destruction which so closely threated her.