The West Australian, Saturday 19 September 1914, page 5



The following report and finding of the Deputy Chief Harbourmaster into the circumstances attending the fire on board the ss. Janus, 20 miles east of Breaksea, on the evening of August 27, has, it is officially stated, been approved by the Colonial Secretary:-

I beg to report, for the information of the Minister, having, with the assistance of the Secretary of the Navigation Act, held an exhaustive preliminary inquiry into the circumstances attending a fire that occurred in the No. 2 hold of the ss. Janus on the evening of August 27, the vessel then being 20 miles east of Breaksea. The Janus is a single screw steamer, 4,824 tons gross and 3,078 nett register, owned by the British India Steam Navigation Co, Official No. 120765, manned by British officer and Indian crew. After due consideration of the evidence, I find :-

(a) The ss. Janus arrived at Fremantle from Colombo on August 24, at 6 p.m., with a cargo of Indian merchandise, including fibre. A portion of the latter consigned to eastern states was landed and placed in the goods shed to enable the stevedores to have access to the Fremantle cargo. This fibre was afterwards re-stowed in the ship, care being taken that same was not exposed to rain or damp. In fact, every precaution appears to have been taken against risk of fire.

(b) The vessel left Fremantle at 1:30 p.m. on the 26th, experiencing somewhat rough weather and sea, particularly when rounding the Leeuwin.

(c) At 10 a.m. on the 27th the chief officer made an examination of the holds as usual and found everything in order.

(d) At 11:45, when the ship was about twenty miles east of Breaksea, the third officer, who was then on watch, observed sparks issuing from the after starboard ventilator of No. 2 hold. He immediately called the master, and all hands turned out.

(e) It was soon discovered that it was impossible to subdue the fire and the vessel was headed for Albany with all possible speed.

(f) When the pilot (myself), accompanied by Pilot Howe, boarded the vessel she was enveloped in thick smoke, the decks were burning, the side of the ship was quite hot, the telegraph to the engineroom burnt off, and it was with difficulty the pilot was able to pick up the lights, owing to the thick smoke.

(g) The vessel was anchored in the inner harbour with two feet of water under her, and not withstanding all the assistance rendered by the three tugs, fire brigade, and others from ashore, it was found necessary to flood the ship by opening engine room sea connections.

(h) I am unable to give a verdict of the cause or origin of the fire, as the evidence goes to show it was not spontaneous combustion as there was no previous sign of smoke or smell when in Fremantle, or when the chief officer visited the hold some 13 hours previous. Neither does the evidence support the suggestion of friction.

(i) My finding thereby is that the fire started suddenly, and from some unknown cause.

(j) There is ample evidence that, as soon as the fire was discovered, every endeavor was made in the proper direction to extinguish same, and had this not been done the result of the fire though serious would have in all probability been a calamity, and the exertion of the local people reflects great credit on all concerned, and it is thoroughly appreciated by the master and officers.

(signed) F. Wingar, Deputy of the Chief Harbourmaster.

(signed) G.J. Sinclair, Secretary Navigation Act.





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