Ballantyne's fire 1947

Where can I find information about the Ballantyne's fire in 1947?

Image: Christchurch 1947 by Canterbury Heritage on Flickr (modified from original).

Entry last updated: 13/01/21


Ballantynes is a well-known department store in Christchurch. On 18 November 1947 a fire broke out in the store and many workers became trapped on the upper floors. 41 people died in total and the fire it is still considered one of New Zealand's worst disasters.

In this entry we will show you how to find information about the start of the fire, how it spread throughout the store, who was involved and what happened afterwards.

Facts and pictures

These websites are a good starting point for information about New Zealand disasters like the Ballantyne's fire.

Christchurch City Libraries

Because this was a local event, Christchurch City Libraries have gathered lots of information about the fire and put it all together on one page.

  • Search the website for 'Disasters'.
  • Then choose New Zealand Disasters.
  • Look under the heading Buildings and structures for Ballantyne's fire.

Here you will find you will find a collection of images of the Ballantyne's fire and also a Factsheet with an easy-to-read summary of the fire.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

This is an an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand Aotearoa.

To find information about the Ballantyne's fire:

Tips: We like Te Ara because it comes from a government organisation. If we scroll down to the bottom of the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable


NZHistory is another great website for information about New Zealand Aotearoa. It also belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage.

  • from the homepage choose Events.
  • Then Events A-Z.
  • Now choose B to find the heading Ballantyne's fire.
Tips: We like sites like these because they’re reliable. You can tell because of their web address – they have .govt meaning they are from a government organisation.

Articles and videos

In the old days, many disasters were reported in newspapers, and later on television news as more people had TVs. Some disasters were also investigated by the government to find out why they happened.


DigitalNZ is a search site and it’s an easy way of searching online resources from New Zealand libraries, museums, universities and government sites all at once, and has lots of primary sources. The results are grouped by the type of information, like images, videos, newspapers, articles and research papers.

Search for 'Ballantynes fire 1947' to find all the information.

  • Choose Videos to watch news reports of the fire and a short film called Spring flames.
  • Choose Audio to listen to a personal account from Pat Fox, one of the workers.
  • Choose More to read articles.
Tips: Websites that have .org in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the organisation’s mission and values are.

Christchurch City Libraries

After the fire, questions were asked about the way the fire was handled and why the death toll was so high. As a result, the government ordered a Commission of Enquiry to look at how the Ballantyne's staff and the Fire Service responded to the fire.

On the Ballantyne's fire page mentioned above, you will see a link to digitised resources about the Ballantyne's Fire. Here you can:

Tips: Websites that have .com in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the company’s mission and values are.

EPIC Resources

EPIC is a collection of online resources that have been put together especially for New Zealand school students. For information about the Ballantyne's fire we suggest the two resources listed below.

Tips: To use the EPIC resources you will need a login and password from your school librarian or you can login to AnyQuestions between 1pm and 6pm Monday to Friday and one of our librarians will help you online.

Australia/New Zealand Reference Centre

Look here for newspaper and magazine articles from New Zealand and Australian newspapers and magazines. Just type 'Ballantynes fire' into the search bar.

Tips: Tick the box 'Full text' so you can read the whole article.

New Zealand Geographic Archive

Search for 'Ballantynes fire' to find the story The girls can't get out!


There are also books about the Ballantyne's fire. Check out your school library and local public library for these recommended titles:

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