Fire raged across the streets and hillside of Mount Victoria in Wellington on May 30, 1901.
Fuelled by high winds and with the fire brigade hampered by weak water pressure and distance, it began to consume houses.
Wellington City Councillor James Joseph Devine watched as it got closer and closer to his home.
By the time it was out, he had lost the house and everything in it.
Devine was born in 1856 in Tipperary, Ireland to James Devine and Jane Anne Jackson.
A lawyer, he opted to head for New Zealand and arrived in Wellington on the Hurunui in 1876.
It was 2am when the fire was first noticed at the home of Charles Moore in Hawker Street. It was a tongue of flame from a window seen from the city and the alarm was raised.
The fire brigade was on the scene very quickly, but a lack of adequate water and high winds saw the fire spread. Their hose reach was only 20ft (6m) and water pressure was weak.
Gale force winds helped the fire spread.
The neighbouring houses burst into flames then leapt the street and before long was in Shannon and Moeller Streets.
Devine’s Hawker Street house wasn’t right beside the others, but in the end it did not matter. Vegetation caught fire and carried to his large handsome home.
Miraculously no one was injured but by the end 22 houses had been destroyed and the fire raged on the hillside for some time.
Many of the grand houses, built for the businessmen of the time, were never rebuilt.
Devine was elected a member of the Wellington City Council in 1893 and served for many years. He has been president of the Catholic Literary Society, and of the Irish National League, besides filling a great many other positions connected with literary societies in Wellington.
He was one of the founding members of the Hibernian Society.
Devine, who had married Margaret Stanislaus Augustine White, with whom he had six children, died on August 17, 1910 after a sudden illness. He was taken to hospital and had an operation but never recovered. His funeral was held at St Mary’s of the Angels church.
He is buried in Karori Cemetery.
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