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Jess M

Ash Wednesday

Jess M

by *Rog*

Click on the play button to listen to Jess’s podcast as you follow along!

 Limited summer rainfall and very high temperatures caused the unforgettable event of Ash Wednesday. This horrible day, the date being Wednesday the 16th of February, 1983 took the lives of over 75 innocent individuals. It burnt through the country at an unstoppable speed, and ended up burning most of Victoria and South Australia.

Prior to Ash Wednesday, people of Victoria had experienced intense drought conditions for nearly 10 months, and mixed with higher temperatures, it had been the driest period on record. There was very low rainfall in winter and spring, plus a 75% drop in the summer rainfall. The forests had very dry leaves and sticks. All of the gullies and valleys had dried out, which had created perfect fire conditions.

 The dry weather conditions and low rainfall was a warning for the fire fighters in the area of an upcoming fire. The first fire was on November 25th, 1982. It was then followed by fires on December 3rd, 13th and January 8th and February 1st in 1983. Closely following the February fire was Ash Wednesday, the worst of them all. The fires created a huge dust storm out of loose soil and smoke. This caused panic, as well as distress among the locals.

There were 180 different fires on Ash Wednesday. Mulitple reasons caused these fires. However, many reasons were more common than others: Sparks, Trees blown down on powerlines and fallen powerlines, the un-known as well as the most disturbing reason, some, were deliberately lit. The fires ranged from fires at the bottom of Victoria to the top of South Australia. The largest fires in Victoria were at Cudgee, Branxholme (near Warrnambool), Mount Macedon, Cockatoo in the Dandenong Ranges, Upper Beaconsfield, Belgrave Heights, Monivae, Warburton and in the Otway’s. It burned South Australia as well and burnt roughly 159,000 hectares in the Adelaide Hills, along with the farming country in the South-East of the state.

200,000 hectares of land was burnt in the fires, and many houses were also taken; 2,000 in Victoria and 700 in South Australia. It was not just houses that were destroyed in the fires. In Mt. Macedon, there were 7 facilities and 618 houses burnt. Warburton, 27 houses. Cockatoo lost 6 facilities and 301 houses. 21 facilities and 238 houses were turned to ashes in Beaconsfield. Lorne lost only 3 facilities but 129 houses were taken by the fires. Branxholme lost 1 facility and 4 houses, and then Framlingham lost 9 facilities and 157 houses.

Overall, this was a very large, heartfelt disaster. Only the people actually caught in the fires could understand the greif and loss they felt after losing everything; their houses, animals even family and friends and in some cases, their whole lives. Other people could only look upon them with sympathetic eyes. These fires not only burned through the country, but through people’s hearts.

Letter from the Author:

Ash Wednesday has it’s own little chunk of Australia’s History. If you are reading this, it means that you are curious about our presentations or you want to learn about Ash Wednesday. I hope you did learn alot. If you did not learn exactly what you wanted, I have the links of the websites I used below and you can do the searching yourself. Jess


http://www.dse.vic.gov.au/DSE/nrenfoe.Nsf/LinkView/FAAF080E6756F7904A25679300155B2B7157D5E68CDC2002CA256DAB0027ECA3 http://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/teachers/documents/fact-sheets/factsheet-ashwednesday.pdf


6 Responses

  1. Great report Jess. Really interesting and heaps of information.

  2. Great story about a historical event that occured in the local area.

  3. i really liked it and all the information and i liked the pictures

  4. 75 people that is heaps it was good i was realy sad there was heaps of info good job it was a long time ago

  5. Hi Jess,

    You have written a very informative recount and selected a picture that really shows how the flames took over and burnt so much! It is very sad that 75 people lost their lives due to the fires but you have done a great job of writing about it.

    Helen 🙂
    P.S. I like the idea of having a letter from the author (you), it looks really professional.

  6. Thank you guys so much for reading my recount. I am so glad you did and hope you enjoyed it. If you want to find out some more about this fire, check out my references ‘cause they really helped me. But remember to check out some others, there are some really interesting ones like The Hubble Telescope and the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

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