Bundaberg pub and hostel goes up in flames

23 July, 2020 by Brydie Allen

The Queensland town of Bundaberg was heartbroken earlier this week, as a ferocious fire tore through the beloved Spotted Dog Tavern and Federal Backpackers hostel next door. 

Emergency services were called to the scene close to 11pm on Monday night, as the fire took hold of both buildings. Dozens of people were evacuated, and thanks to the quick actions of staff and the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES), everyone escaped unharmed. 

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There’s no official confirmation on the cause of the blaze as yet, but fire crews did say it was one of the largest they’d seen, taking them hours to get it under control. Unfortunately the end outcome saw the buildings gutted, and the hostel’s backpackers lost almost everything. 

The owners of the Spotted Dog Tavern, known to locals as Pato and Sue, thanked everyone for their support on Facebook. 

“We appreciate your patience and understanding during this time and will update the community on all things relating to the Spotted Dog when we ourselves are ready we will provide an update,” the post read.

The Federal Backpackers also thanked the community for their support, who pulled together to support the businesses, their staff, and the displaced backpackers in what the hostel called “a horrific journey.”

There’s been an outpouring of support from Bundaberg locals since the fire, with people donating food and personal items, raising funds and setting up temporary housing. 

Local MP David Batt said the community spirit is what has always gotten Bundaberg through disasters, and that was immediately evident after this fire too, which he called “truly devastating.”

Our Bundy community has been through many heartbreaking disasters and throughout each event, we rally together to support one another and do whatever needs to be done to move forward. Now is another one of these times,” Batt said. 

“This historic building is an iconic part of our main street with so many stories to tell. As part of the Federal Hotel, it was one of the early nightclubs in town called ‘Foxys’ and the backpacker’s section had less desirable tenants when the Rebels motorcycle gang occupied the ground floor as their clubhouse.

“I have always been proud to call Bundy home, but it’s the spirit we see in the days, weeks and months after events like this that really cements my genuine love for who we are as a community.”

The Spotted Dog have asked that support be focused on helping the backpackers who escaped the fire – two fundraising pages on GoFundMe have already been taken down at the owners’ request. A different fundraising page has been set up for the backpackers, most of whom were sleeping when the fire took hold, already raising over $15,000 from more than 500 donations.

For many in the area, and even some of the backpackers themselves, the fire was a dark reminder of the Childers Palace hostel fire – a tragedy which happened less than an hour away from Bundaberg, 20 years ago last month, in which 15 people lost their lives. In an eerie coincidence, one of the Federal Backpackers residents, Chloe Eshelby, told 7 News that just days before the fire she and fellow residents had been listening to a podcast about Childers and had discussed how they would escape the building.