Fire strikes the heart of Cobar

The NSW rural town of Cobar lost two of its beloved in August, as one of its oldest pubs burnt to the ground and a local firefighter tragically lost his life defending it.

Borne of a copper rush that began in the 1870s, the town gets its name from the Aboriginal word describing the copper-coloured earth of the region.

Cobar once boasted one of the largest copper mines in the country, and the recently departed New Occidental Hotel was built in 1879 to service the booming mining trade.

The town laments a history with fire including that of a copper mine blaze in 1920 that set in to the Oregon pine pit props and despite being capped with steel slow-burned for 16 years.

Originally the Star Hotel, the building was remodelled in the 1930s, during a resurgence in Cobar. Adorned in mint green and pink, and renamed the New Occidental, it represented modernism and progress in the country town.

Sadly, in early August 2014 the 135 year run of the New Occidental came to an end as firefighters were called to battle a blaze that had taken hold of the building. Adding to the tragedy, fireman Daniel Howard was killed when a wall collapsed on him.

Cobar museum curator Kay Stingemore was quoted by as saying the loss of the hotel leaves a feeling of emptiness, and ‘a gap in [Cobar’s] history’.


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