PORT Arthur residents have lost all their uncollected mail and will have to travel almost 20 kilometres to get milk, bread and the daily newspaper after the town's general store burnt down yesterday.
The store, its adjoining house and the post office caught alight about 7.30am, with damage estimated at $500,000.
It is believed that an electric heater at the back of the building started the accidental fire and that the store's co-owner, who lived in the adjoining house, only just escaped.
Marian Larner, of Port Arthur, said the woman had been in the kitchen preparing food when she noticed smoke. She quickly grabbed her dog and fled.
The whole place was engulfed in flames moments later, Mrs Larner said.
"It was a big ball of smoke."
Mrs Larner said the town, which she had lived in for more than 30 years, was in shock.
"The biggest worry is that it was the post office," she said.
"We all have boxes there, and that's where we got our mail."
It is unknown what will happen to residents' mail now, and to get general food items they will have to travel to stores at Nubeena or Eaglehawk Neck.
A fire service spokesman said the building was "pretty much on the ground" following the incident.