Thanks Jan for the comments so far. I shall follow up SAGHS journal item with interest.
I should have added to my original post that I had earlier found the reference to an 1887 fire in http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/manning/adelaide/factory/factory.htm#burford . However on checking the Chronicle newspaper, the fire is described as an exploded boiler with, I recall, the loss of one life. There is no suggestion of extensive impact or the possible destruction of nearby Coombe's timber yard / mill.
Your late father's description paints a picture of great drama. This may be the fire I am looking for, rather than the Chronicle's exploded boiler.
David Coombe, Canberra.
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