FIRST firefighters on the scene arrived no later than one minute from the time they received the call from 000 emergency dispatchers.
The historic homestead on Lady Mary Tce was fully engulfed by fire when the first of five fire trucks arrived about 10pm on Tuesday.
It took 16 firefighters to put out the raging inferno, which destroyed the magnificent heritage-listed Queenslander in Gympie's historic railway precinct.
Crews from Cooroy and Pomona joined local auxiliary firefighters and Gympie Fire and Rescue officers in a massive effort to save the building, but the old wooden structure went up like matchsticks.
A large crowd gathered to watch the spectacular sight, described as a "ball of fire" by residents who viewed the fire from their homes a distance away. Firefighters worked frantically to protect nearby properties and parked cars and brought the fire under control within a couple of hours.
A fire truck and its crew remained at the scene in case the fire flared up again, while police guarded the building overnight.
The officer in charge, senior firefighter Grant Nelson, said five appliances were pumping water onto the homestead at the peak of the blaze. He said the first arrived at the fire within one minute from dispatch.
"People watching something like a house fire don't realise how time appears to pass quickly," he said.
"You can lose perspective of time.
"And although people lose sense of time, the reality is that the first appliance arrived in one minute.
"Also people are watching the fire and might not be calling it in to 000.
"While we received multiple calls, sometimes people don't because they think someone else did and this causes delays. Please don't rely on other people to ring 000 when you see an incident. Ring it in as soon as you can, because every minute counts - in rescuing people and saving property."
The building, owned by the Department of Communities, had been monitored by a private security contractor. Three smoke detectors were activated by the fire, alerting security, which in turn alerted 000. Fire investigators are still looking for the cause.