The Fire From Hell Broken homes, broken hearts and broken dreams"ÃÂ¦the disastrous fire that has ripped through out the state. The first premonition of danger on Ash Wednesday came as the Weather Bureau kept updating the temperature. When the day began it was 34, by midday it was 39, by early afternoon 41 until hitting a maximum temperature of 43.
These were conditions that the country fire authority had been dreading since early November. "Victoria is a bomb waiting to go off"ÃÂ¦"ÃÂ that was just one of the hasting warnings from the fire authorities at the beginning of November 1982. They had been trying to get the word round that next Feb would be an extremely bad time for fires. From handing pamphlets out, to letters, as well as public speaking, all telling us about how we could have stopped or even prevented the fires from spreading so quickly.
I, myself at the time was in Mt Macedon.
The atmosphere was horrific, people yelling and babies crying. The roads were absolutely chaos, with traffic jams every where and houses literally burnt down to the last bits of wood. It was hard to see a long distance because of the smoke, but I managed to get into my car. I grabbed mum and dad, who were standing on the footpath hugging each other and hoping for the best, through them in the car and speeded all the way down to the safe house. There I was treated with minor burns. I think they were from when I reached out and grabbed the glass-framed photo, which was melting. It was the only photo of Mum, Dad and myself.
Our house was completely gone, but so were many other people's houses. In and around Mt. Macedon there was about 8 dead and 399 houses burnt down. I think I should count myself as a lucky one, I didn't lose any loved ones. The national toll for deaths was 72. With over 2000 homes burnt down, and around 335,000 sheep lost, as well as 18,000 cattle. Not to mention the fires in Adelaide and South Australia. There was 330,000 hectares destroyed and 25,000 stock wiped out "ÃÂ at a total cost of more than $200 million dollars.
The cause of most of the fires was spontaneous combustion from which material that was on the ground. Also a young youth arrested in Adelaide, accused of lighting a fire. As well as poor maintenance of SEC power lines was blamed for several fires.
Across the parts of Australia that were burnt 15,000 CFA volunteers fought the fires, aided by 1200 personnel from the forest commission, 200 firefights from bodies such as the board of works and the national parks department, up to 1000 police and 600 people from the defence forces. These firefighters also had help from the 338 fire trucks, 75 water tankers, 111 bulldozers, 13 helicopters and another 13 other aircraft's.
Victoria, and Australia, will long remember the bushfires of Ash Wednesday, February 16th, 1983. We will not only remember the deaths, property damage, bushland but also the individual acts and the courage of the firefighters.