A Melbourne RSL says it will rise from the ashes after its historic clubhouse was gutted by a fire sparked by an electrical fault just days before Anzac Day services.
An early morning yoga class had a lucky escape as fire engulfed the Ivanhoe RSL on Friday morning, with much of the 1913 building and its historic features lost.
MFB firefighters took 52 minutes to get the fire under control, wearing breathing gear to conduct “an aggressive attack” on the flames.
Fire investigators have determined the blaze was started by an electrical fault in a ceiling fan in the club’s change rooms.
The club’s president, Fred Cullen, who turns 96 in June, was on the streets of the CBD selling Anzac Day badges when he heard the devastating news.
“I was invited to go (and see the damage) this morning, but I thought no, I’d be more of a nuisance,” Mr Cullen said in Melbourne on Friday.
“I thought I’d be better help by raising the funds that I raised; I got about $1500 this morning.”
Mr Cullen said the news was devastating, but the RSL and its members will continue to “rally around”.
“The RSL sub-branch still exists and we will continue doing our work and doing it well.”
Veterans Affairs Minister John Eren said the state was proud of Mr Cullen, who was wounded in Papua New Guinea in WWII, and the work he did at the RSL for 43 years.
“The least we can do as a government is make sure that we can get that RSL up and running as soon as possible,” Mr Eren said.
Secretary Jacqueline Maud, who has a small cottage on the property, said she was alerted to the fire by members of the yoga club.
“There was flames coming out of the roof,” Ms Maud said on Friday.
“It’s been virtually destroyed, but there’s certain parts they can’t go in yet because of the structure damage.”
It was feared that decades of Anzac memorabilia might have been lost, but Ms Maud said firefighters were able to save “a lot” of it.
Her husband was taken to the Austin Hospital with smoke inhalation but “he’s OK”.
The yoga teacher said they heard a sound, then 10 minutes later smelled smoke.
“(We feel) very lucky and very sad. It has been home to our studio for at least the last six or seven years. And the community here will be gutted,’ she told the Nine Network.
The MFB reminds people all electrical appliances should be regularly maintained, switched off when not in use, and replaced when faulty.