As patrons fled the burning Log Cabin last Friday night, a distressed Ross Sinclair stood below the flames armed with a fire extinguisher.
In a desperate attempt to save his “beloved Log Cabin”, Mr Sinclair, the owner, tried to battle the blaze for 30 minutes before police and fire fighters removed him from the burning building.
“I just kept thinking ‘put the fire out, get it fixed and get the roof back on’,” he said.
Mr Sinclair was celebrating his grandson’s 10th birthday at the Log Cabin when the fire ignited at about 9pm last Friday. It is understood the fire started due to an electrical fault in one of the downlights in the ballroom.
“The manager of the restaurant said she needed to speak to me. She took me to the ballroom… I looked up at the downlights and they were flickering, one had sort of half fallen out and there were flames,” Mr Sinclair said.
“I grabbed the fire extinguisher and shoved it up there. It was a shocking experience – they [emergency services] escorted me off the property because I was so distressed.”
The Penrith businessman was then forced to watch on beside his family as the Log Cabin went up in flames.
“We were terribly upset and distraught because it is part of our life,” he said.
“You never envisage that it will happen, but when it does it’s a soul-destroying nightmare.”
On Wednesday, Mr Sinclair showed the Weekender what was left of the Log Cabin.
Glasses and plates litter the dining and bar areas, while chairs and tables are still turned upside down – all evidence of the drama that unfolded last Friday.
The ballroom had been set up for a wedding, which was supposed to take place on Saturday. The bride and groom’s place cards were found buried below roof tiles and ash.
When news of the fire broke, nine local businesses including Penrith Panthers, jumped to the rescue and eventually relocated the wedding to the Chairman’s Lounge at Centrebet Stadium.
“I can’t thank those people enough. Penrith has the best community there could ever be in any town in the world,” Mr Sinclair said.
While Mr Sinclair has owned the Log Cabin for 30 years, it is well entrenched in Penrith’s history since 1827.
It is also home to wartime memorabilia, including an Australian flag signed by soldiers from World War II.
“I certainly was relieved to find the flag was okay. I had it in a safe upstairs, and we had made a copy of the flag, which was the one in the foyer,” Mr Sinclair said.
A week after the “shocking loss” of the Log Cabin and tributes continue to flow in.
Penrith Mayor, Greg Davies, said while the Log Cabin had undergone ownership changes and renovations since 1827, it had always maintained its rustic charms and inviting atmosphere.
“Regardless of when, how or why you may have visited the Log Cabin, there have been a lot of great memories created there and it will be fondly remembered by locals and visitors,” Cr Davies said.
“An integral part of our past, I know the Log Cabin will continue to be an important part of our future and I look forward to seeing it be rebuilt and returned to its former glory one day soon.”
In terms of moving forward, Mr Sinclair is still in negotiations with his insurance company as to how much damage has been sustained, and at what cost.
“We’ve had the forensic team through, we’ve had the police, the insurance team, engineers and architects – they are all working on how it can be re-established, or sadly, whether it has to go,” he said.
But Mr Sinclair is optimistic about the future, even if it means tearing down his 30-year legacy and starting from scratch.
“We might just have to build a Log Cabin number two,” he laughed.
“There are a lot of memories for a lot of people here, you know weddings, anniversaries.
“A few of the police said they even had their first beer here.”
And, for his 10-year-old grandson, Mr Sinclair said it would certainly be a birthday he would never forget.