Residents of a historic hotel near Heathcote were lucky to escape uninjured after a fire ripped through the building on Saturday.
Heathcote fire brigade Captain Carl Watkins said National Broadband Network contractors noticed the flames on the side of the old Lake Hotel and alerted the two women inside.
“They were very lucky the people up the road saw it and got them out before it was going,” he said.
Captain Watkins said the fire may have started where the power cables connected to the side of the house.
Fires of this nature happened regularly on power poles, but not houses, he said.
The mid-nineteenth century weatherboard structure, which was converted into a private residence a number of years ago, was “almost 100 per cent lost”, Captain Watkins said.
“It’s a really really old building and a lot of history in it for the town,” he said.
Wind gusts of up to 40 kilometres per hour and the age of the building made the task more difficult for the nine Country Fire Authority units that attended the scene, Captain Watkins said.
Large plumes of smoke, combined with CFA units needing to transfer water across the Northern Highway, forced the closure of the thoroughfare in both directions at Heathcote-Nagambie Road for five hours on Saturday.
Heathcote police Sergeant John Olver said a woman in her 70s and her daughter escaped with their dog and other valuables before the fire gained strength.
Sergeant Olver said police were not treating the fire as suspicious.