January 8 marks 50 years since the day more than 230 fires burnt across Victoria, resulting in 23 deaths
Black Wednesday
Wednesday, 08 January 1969 09:00 Hrs
❝ It was blistering, windy weather on the first total fire ban day of the year. My most vivid memory of the fire? Pulling up in the driveway, opening the car door and looking up to see all the tree—tops on fire.

Before the fire

My first bushfire was Black Wednesday. It was summer. I'd finished my first year of kinder. It was a hot day with blustery winds. We'd spent the entire morning and afternoon trying to get a large fish my Dad had caught to be preserved. [0]

The taxidermist was in Essendon. As you got into the car, your legs stuck to the seat where the sun touched the vinyl. Windows down, we drove home. From Sutherland Homes we could see the smoke. A police road was set up at "the bends" near Sawpit Gulley. My parents convinced the Constable at the roadblock we were locals and he let us through. What we didn't know was the wind would change direction. We drove straight into the fire.

Before the
fire Before the

I still wonder at those flames dancing across the trees above the house, the crackling sound the leaves made when they errupted in flame in the blowing gale. Our neighbours had filled our gutters with hoses, the water adding to the asbestos clad roof. My brother and myself were placed in the bath with sandwiches. The fire roared burnt down the local hall, destroyed the steeple on the local church, then burnt up one side of the street, missing a row of houses. The wind changed again. Through luck our house and most others survived. 5000ha in our area was burned out. Across the state, 200 houses were lost and 21 people were killed.

My memory of this time is dirt roads, charred black trees, bright blue skies and the bursts of red leaves or "epicormic buds" of the gums, just like this one. For the rest of the year I came home with black pictures from kinder. The family across the hill from us, their house and farm lands burnt down. Short term help was supplied, the more important long term support ignored. I'd spend the rest of Primary school with Joe. Not once can I remember him talking about it.

❝ This fire swept around the western and southern slopes of Mine Hill to Research, Kangaroo Ground and finished at Warrandyte. The houses bottom left are in Challenger Street, Diamond Creek. [1]

After securing the house, my Dad raced filled up his water backpack and raced off to the help the local bridade. He later got balled out by the Fire Captain, Clarrie Stone for not registering at the Diamond Creek Fire Station. By the time the fire was out it had burned down the local hall across from St. Johns Church and still visible today. The railway line between Diamond Creek and Eltham was extensivly damaged.

My next fire was Ash Wednesday.


[0] The Courier, Hayley Elg, "January 8 marks 50 years since the day more than 230 fires burnt across Victoria, resulting in 23 deaths"

[Last Accessed Thursday 17th January, 2019]


[1] Diamond Creek Bushfires, Yarra Plenty Regional Library,

[Last Accessed Friday 18th January, 2019]



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