"In the beginning"


The views expressed in this blog are not necessarily the views of the blog management, (on the other hand, they are not necessarily not the views of the blog management).

No effort has been made to stay within the bounds of the truth in this blog as it has always been the view of the management that the truth should never be allowed to stand in the way of a good story.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Bushfires; Black Friday.

A map of the state of Victoria showing the main fires of
Black Friday.

As well as these main fires there were countless small blazes all over
the State

These full grown trees were twisted to breaking point by the
heat/winds generated by the fire

Please note the sophisicated fire fighting equipment that these brave
souls had to use.

Bushfires; Black Friday.

The most notorious bushfire in Australia’s history burst into devastating
reality on Friday 13th of January 1939 this monster claimed 71 lives
and destroyed over 1000 homes as well as the huge stock and property
losses known as Black Friday ever since.

I was a child, only three and a half years of age, and while I can
remember the heat, smoke, and near panic of my parents (both of
whom were not prone to panic) I have only these very sketchy
memories of the 3 days that half the State of Victoria was ablaze.

There was in fact very good reason for my parents fear as the flames
came to within half a mile of our home, there was none of the
sophisticated fire fighting force or methods of today back then it was
pretty much a case of fighting to save your own property with wet
wheat sacks or gum tree branches.

While I knew nothing of the brutality of a bush fire then, I now know
that our vast forests of eucalypts are one of the worlds worst places
to be in bushfire conditions, the heat generated by a fierce fire
causes the eucalyptus oil in the leaves to boil out and create a
combustible gas which ignites the crowns of the trees this spreads
the fire at breakneck speed and is impossible to fight as it is overhead.

A bushfire also generates it’s own wind as it roars along from fuel
source to fuel source, altogether one of the most frightening
environments to be found anywhere.

The Lead Up to Black Friday;

Black Friday was the culmination of a long, dry and hot summer which followed a drought lasting several years. Creeks and rivers had dried up, and people living in Melbourne were on water restrictions. Dry heat and hot winds sapped all moisture out of the ground, leaving forest floors tinder dry and the open plains cracked and baking under a hot sun.

Strong northerly winds on Friday 13 January fanned the flames of many separate fires. Fires which had smouldered previously, ignited and combined to create the massive fire front which swept mainly over the mountain country in the north east, and along the coast in the south west.

The fires of January 1939 were to be etched into the memories of those involved for the rest of their lives.

Flames leapt from mountain to mountain, giant trees were blown out of the ground by fierce winds and large pieces of burning bark were carried for miles ahead of the main fire front, lighting up places that had not yet been devastated by flames.

Sixty-nine mills were burnt, and seventy one lives lost. At one sawmill settlement near Matlock, east of Melbourne, fifteen people died whilst trying to escape from the fires. Over 1000 homes were burnt, and the townships of Narbethong, Noojee, Woods Point, Nayook West and Hill End were obliterated.

The townships of Warrandyte, Yarra Glen, (note; we lived 4miles from Yarra Glen at the time) Omeo and Pomonal were badly damaged. Fires raged in the Yarra Ranges east of Melbourne, and affected towns including Toolangi, Warburton and Thomson Valley. The Alpine towns of Bright, Cudgewa and Corryong were also affected, as were vast areas in the west of the state, in particular Portland, the Otway Ranges and the Grampians.

The intensity of the fire produced huge amounts of smoke and ash, with reports of ash falling as far away as New Zealand.

The devastation ended late on Sunday January 15, after rain fell across the state.

I will continue with some detail of other major fires; stay tuned.

If I'd observed all the rules,

I'd never have got anywhere.


Merle said...

Hi Peter ~~ Good post about the 1939
fires. I can remember seeing both Mum and Dad with wet wheat bags putting out small fires. These current ones have burnt for a fortnight, but no loss of life and not many homes. A Lodge at Mt. Buffalo. Tassie are having their own battles. Take care,

Miss said...

I love reading history, especially about things I didn't know. This was so awful, thanks for telling the story.

Miss Cellania

Meow said...

Hey, Peter ... interesting post about the '39 fires. That map looks scary, what a large amount of Vic under threat.
The fires here are still raging, many joining up to one big fire. There are current maps and stuff to be found on the CFA website, if you are interested.
HOpe you have a great Friday.
Take care, Meow

Sue said...

Very interesting post! The best book I've read about the events surrounding Black Friday is 'Four Fires' by Bryce Courtenay.

If you haven't read it, you should. It's a fantastic read.

Lee said...

Thanks for the very informative post, Peter.

These present fires are horrific and never-ending, it would seem. I hope rain comes soon.

Puss-in-Boots said...

Hi Peter

Dreadful fires, those poor people who are caught in them. Apparently a couple of hoods actually deliberately lit one of the fires a day or two ago. I really hope they're caught.

All the best to you