Heritage-listed RSL building gutted by blaze in Ivanhoe

A large fire, which gutted a heritage-listed RSL building in Melbourne's east, was caused by an electrical fault in a ceiling fan in the changerooms, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade said.

Firefighters were called to the RSL club in Ivanhoe about 6.40am on Friday with large flames engulfing the building on the corners of Studley and Upper Heidelberg roads.

Six fire crews battled the giant blaze.

Photos from the scene show flames and thick smoke swallowing the two-storey building.

The blaze was brought under control shortly before 8am but the building appears to have been gutted by the fire.

Upper Heidelberg Road is closed to motorists, and traffic is heavy in the area. A smoke warning has also been issued and locals are being told to avoid the scene.

The cruel turn of events for the local RSL community comes just days before Anzac Day.

Club President Fred Cullen, 96, was selling Anzac Day pins in the city when he learnt of the fire.

Mr Cullen, who has been running the branch for over 43 years, said he was heartbroken and still coming to terms with the devastation of the fire.

"I'm feeling a little bit devastated. It's rather difficult to come to grips with the situation."

"We've been working on it and restoring it to its original beauty," Mr Cullen said.

He said commemorative events next Tuesday had been cast into doubt.

But the RSL and its members would continue to "rally around", he said.

A significant amount of memorabilia has been lost in the fire, and a number of improvements on the property were only just completed.

Several women were attending a 6am yoga class inside the building when the fire broke out.

???Committee member and secretary Jackie Maud lives with her husband in a cottage on the property and said she was woken by a yoga teacher banging on their front door.

"It's very devastating," she said. "We were all looking forward to our Anzac Day march and unfortunately we've lost a lot of our memrobilia."

"It's only just been painted. The billiard room was being done and we had all new carpet put through. It's all gone."

Studio Yoga owner Lizzy James said people heard a loud bang around 6.20am but ignored it until they smelt smoke a short time later and called triple zero.

"They opened the door to the studio and saw smoke and fire at the end of the hallway."

Mrs Maud's husband was treated for smoke inhalation while a neighbouring property was evacuated.

Ms James said the blaze was devastating and that burnt building was "absolutely stunning".

"It's the only RSL in Victoria that's owned by the members and it's gone," she said.

"Not to mention all the Anzac Day memorials and everything are on next week so I don't know what they're going to do about that."

Tributes have flooded the club's Facebook page, including from RSL clubs interstate.

One person called the blaze "heartbreaking".

"Our deepest sympathies to you all over the fire that has struck your club we will be thinking of you all, from all the members from the Coober Pedy RSL," wrote one man.

Firefighters brought the blaze under control within an hour, but it was not enough to save the Queen Anne-style residence from severe damage.

A large number of people from the community have gathered at the scene to offer their support. Nearby highs chool Ivanhoe Girls' Grammar has reportedly offered to host Anzac Day ceremonies.

"They've been fantastic," Ms Maud said.

The building, named Clarivue, has significant architectural importance to the Heidelberg and Ivanhoe area.

It is described as the grandest of the early Medieval Domestic Revival houses in Heidelberg in a submission to Heritage Victoria.

Builder John W. Brown constructed the house for Fitzroy timber merchant Wallace Stone in 1913.


The story Heritage-listed RSL building gutted by blaze in Ivanhoe first appeared on The Age.

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