The historic and somewhat infamous Ora Banda Hotel has been destroyed by fire in suspicious circumstances.
Fire and emergency crews were called to the scene at Ora Banda, arriving around 6:30am on Saturday to find the Hotel already engulfed in flames.
Ora Banda is an historic gold-mining community north of Kalgoorlie, around 700 kilometres west of Perth. It was once a strong township of 2,000 people, but recent years have brought the number of permanent residents down to just a handful. It remains a strong tourist destination, many hoping to satisfy some gold fever.
The pub, built 1911, shot to notoriety in 2000 when member of the Gypsy Joker bikie gang Billy Grierson was shot dead by a high-powered rifle while sitting a few hundred metres away.
The shooter was never established, but was widely thought to have been the former police chief – owner of the pub – Don Hancock.
A revenge attack saw the Ora blown up shortly after, but Hancock was not harmed. He and friend Lawrence Lewis were not so lucky in September 2001, when they died in a car-bomb attack outside Hancock’s home.
Barry Foote subsequently rebuilt and reopened the Ora Banda before selling it in 2006 to Mike and Rhonda Lucas, the current owners.
On Saturday the couple posted with great sadness to social media that the beloved town pub had been devastated, and will be closed until further notice.
“We appreciate everyone’s messages and posts and we will attempt to reply to you all as soon as we can.”
“We had honour rolls for our World War I veterans which have been lost and paintings of what the town looked like in its heyday and all this sort of stuff is gone.”
There was suggestion the wood-burning fireplace may have been the cause of the blaze, but manager Kirri Pomery-Donnelly, who was last to leave on Friday, confirmed the fire was out at closing time.
The 108-year-old pub had begun to enjoy the benefits of the road to Ora Banda finally being sealed last year, and a mobile phone tower installed in the town amid an increase in mining activity again.
A fire services spokesperson stated the initial estimate on damage is $1 million, given “100 per cent of the structure has been damaged with only the external walls remaining”.
The fire is being investigated by both the Department of Fire & Emergency Services (DFES) and WA Police.
The Lucas’ have pledged to rebuild.