February 1983 - Ash Wednesday

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February 1983 - Ash Wednesday is associated with Framlingham, Victoria located at these coordinates -38.241363, 142.705268

The cost of bushfires on a rural community is immense and unimaginable to those of us who have never lived through such a catastrophic event - not only the physical toll from injuries received in the fire or the financial toll from loss of property, livestock and, in some cases, livelihood - but also the emotional trauma inflicted by the loss of life of loved ones and neighbours and memory of sights of horrors never forgotten. The stress inflicted as a result of a bushfire can last a life-time. All members of the community are affected to some degree and how much more effect might the toll take on the youngest members of the community.

As a result of the Ash Wednesday fires, the small rural school of Framlingham Primary School was evacuated and this record contains the recollection of the events in the children's own words and introduced by the words of Mr. Lee McCorkell, the Head Teacher of the school on that eventful day. It is fascinating to read of the children's experiences, each from a different perspective, and to discover the emphasis placed on different aspects of an event experienced by all the children. Some, being children of the land, are concerned with rural matters such as livestock, fences and paddocks. Others worry about their parents or their houses being burnt while others concern themselves with food, drink or games and toys. They all show unconscious bravery in the way they endured the terror and uncertainty of that tragic day.

"The small township of Framlingham would be unknown to most people of Victoria, let alone Australia. Yet it shot to national prominence, along with other similar towns on the 16th of February 1983 when it was ravaged by the ferocity of the "Ash Wednesday" fires. When the smoke had cleared the severity of the damage was revealed ..... houses razed, livestock destroyed and property damaged. The children of the Framlingham school suffered through the ordeal also. There was only ten minutes warning before the school had to be evacuated. For many, the next few hours would be clearly remembered for the rest of their lives. As the following stories will tell, some of the children went through terrifying experiences. All were very willing to write their stories, in order to share their experiences with others …." Lee McCorkell, Head Teacher of Framlingham Primary School

Record Citation: VPRS 9831 / P0001 / 0002 School Pupils' Experiences of the Ash Wednesday Bushfire
Record URL: http://www.access.prov.vic.gov.au/public/component/daPublicBaseContainer?component=daViewItem&entityId=6165793315
Agency: VA 3903 Framlingham (Common School; Primary School No.1082)1894-1993
Agency URL: http://www.access.prov.vic.gov.au/public/component/daPublicBaseContainer?component=daViewAgency&entityId=3903
Date: 16/03/1983
Record Type: School Record
Event Type:
Language: en
Copyright URL: http://www.prov.vic.gov.au/copyright
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User Tags: framlingham, ash wednesday

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Shari's Story.jpg Shari Henderson - Grade 5 Wednesday 18th Feb. 1983

At school we were having a draw when Wendy Vaughan came in and told us that there was a fire and we had to go home. I got frightened. I shivered all over. Jody was joking about the fire. He said he wouldn't get burnt out and I would. And of course it came true.

When I got home I closed all the windows and the doors and I lay down on my bed. Mum came in and was glad to see me. She told me to get Joe and let him loose. I nearly suffocated when I was pulling Joe. He ran off on me. I went out to the car where mum was waiting for me. She took off.

We went over the bridge. I was worried about the cats and the dog and the magpie. We went up to Mr and Mrs Nash's. As soon as we sat down the house caught on fire. We got towels and wet them. I started to shiver. Chris took us over a red hot fence and across red hot burning ground. We walked across the road to the Manse. Mr and Mrs Hall were there. She gave us a drink. Mrs Nash flaked out in the middle of the road because she breathed to (sic) much smoke. Mum, Mrs Hall and Chris put a fire out that was in the roof.

Chris got a car from somewhere and took mum and I to Mr Hay's place. They were our friends. Mum started to cry because she knew our house had gone. Dad and Greg were in the middle of the river with Joe.

Mum picked up Kelly with Mr Hays. When I sat down I felt something on my foot. It was a burn. Mr Hayes put some cream on it and it felt better.

We are living in a caravan now. It's very lousy because there isn't much room. I've got Joe now and he's allright (sic). Dad is starting to build on the bluestone wall for our new house.

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Leanne's Story (1).jpg Leanne Sawyer - Grade 6 It was Wednesday. A nice hot, windy day. We were all at school when Wendy Vaughan came into the school and told Mr McCorkell that there waw a fire coming towards Framlingham. At first I thought it was just a small fire but it wasn't. It was about half past two when the school was evacuated.

Wendy took seven of us to her place. There were Colin and David McGinness, Megan Glennen, Tiffany Allan, Melissa Vaughan, Richard Sawyer (he's my brother), and myself. We got to their place, went inside, sat down and had a cold drink. We were just playing with Melissa's toys when Mrs Vaughan (Wendy's mother) came in and got some towels out of the cupboard and told us to get one each. So we picked up a towel. Then Mrs Vaughan told us to walk quickly down to the cow-yard because she thought it would be safer down there.

When we got down there we wet our towels under the tap. We were alright for about 1/2 an hour but the wind changed and the fire was coming closer and closer to the cow-yard. It was then that I felt very scared.

We wet our towels again. We could see the fire burning over in Drake's paddock. Mrs Vaughan told us to get into the trough because the fire had jumped the road. About ten minutes later she told us to get out and get into Frank Healy's car so we could get out of the fire, but we had to get back into the trough because the car was too hot. I was terrified.

Tiffany was nearly screaming while she was getting back into the trough. Mrs Vaughan said not to panic. We were in there for about two and a half hours. It took a long time for the smoke to clear up.

While we were in the trough Tiffany kept asking Mrs Vaughan questions like "Are we going to be alright?" and "Are you alright Mrs Vaughan?", but Mrs Vaughan said not to ask her questions.

Then Tiffany asked me if I could put my towel over hers so that I could talk to her, so I did. We talked for a long time. She asked Megan if the smoke had cleared up. megan said to stop asking questions because she was sick of it. Tiff and I kept on talking.

The smoke got worse and worse. We could hardly breathe. Mrs Vaughan was trying to put out the small fires around the place

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Leanne's Story (2).jpg still. Colin, Richard and David were talking as much as we were but they were alright.

Then Wendy came down and told Mrs Vaughan something but I can't remember what it was. Then she noticed that the cyprus (sic) trees at the back of the cowyard were on fire, so she told us to get out of the trough and run up to the lane. So we did. I was terrified because I thought that the trees up the lane were going to fall on us but they didn't. We got up to the backyard and sat under a willow tree.

Wendy asked us if we would like a drink of lemonade. We all said yes so she went and got the bottle. We all had a drink. Mrs Vaughan said it was all right to go into the house. When we got inside we sat in the kitchen. Mrs Vaughan said not to worry about our dirty shoes. Then she said to go up to the bathroom and wash our hands and faces. We had another drink and sat down in the lounge.

It was about half past eight when mum and my aunty came and picked Richard and I up from Vaughan's. It was pretty dark then. I went back to my place and had some fish and chips. Then I got some clothes and went with Doreen (my aunty) to her place to sleep the night.

The next day I came home and looked at what we had lost from the fire. We didn't have any water so we had to get some from my uncle. We didn't have any electricity either, so Doreen brought some candles before she took me home.

Leanne Sawyer.

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Leesa's Story.jpg Leesa Stuart - Prep Mum got me from school and we took Helen, Natalie and Tanya home and we went home.

We got some clothes and ran out to the car. Helen took us to Pat's.

Mum helped dad and pa to get the cows. Then she got us at Pat's and took us home.

Our house didn't get burnt, and the cowyard didn't get burnt.

I wasn't scared. It was good fun. I liked the fire. Mark and Troy were scared.

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Donna's Story.jpg Donna Lynch - Grade 1

(Away in Melbourne)

When I got home I saw the tree two paddocks away. It fell over. Grandma's house has got on fire and it burnt down.

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Helen's Story.jpg Helen Kearns - Grade 1 I saw some smoke coming from Ballangeich. I was at my house. I was crying. Sandy jumped out of the window and mum had to get him.

We went to the Purnim Hall and up to Inverarity's house. Our fences and the paddocks got burnt.

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Damien's Story.jpg Damien Lynch - Grade 3

(Away in Melbourne)

One day I was at my friend's house in Melbourne. Mum rang up Ivan to see if our house was O.K. Ivan said the shed was burnt. We had to go straight away. On the way I saw a lot of trees burning. I thought that our house got burnt down.

We got home at last. It was late. The house was not burnt and the shed was not burnt down. I got my torch but the batteries were worn out on it. I went to bed. Donna and Jayne went to Magella's house in Warrnambool.

In the morning I could see well. The car shed was gone. Dad was looking around for things. We went to grandma's. Her house was gone. I found two things for Grandma. They were a cup and a saucer. She liked the things that I got her.

She got a new car and a caravan. She left the caravan at our house and took her car. She left the caravan for people who worked here.

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Richard's Story.jpg Richard Sawyer - Grade 3 Last Wednesday when the fire was on I went to Vaughan's house and we played. Then we went to the cow yard and had to get into the trough and me and the others got scared.

Then the fire jumped the fence and the cow yard was on fire. Then it went through the paddock and the cows got singed. The trees at the back of the cow yard caught on fire so we ran back to the house. Then we played and the hay shed got burnt. If a spark hit the house it could have caught on fire.

Then mum came and we went home. We lost our sheds and garden and thirty of our cows got burnt in the paddock. A ball of fire hit our hay shed and our tractor. The wheels melted and blew up. The car and the truck and our old ute did not get burnt.

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Mark's Story.jpg Mark Stuart - Grade 2 When I took Natalie home I got a fright. I cried. Then we went home to pack clothes.

Then we took off and we came to the corner of Purnim and we saw Helen O'Neil there. She took us to Pat's. Then we stayed. I got sick and we had a drink.

Dad nearly lost all of his paddock but it was saved. The sun was orange.

Then we went to Natalie's house. I had a sleep there, and we went home. Then dad came home.

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Tanya's Story.jpg Tanya Weathers - Grade 2 One day the lady came to the school and made us go home.

I saw the fire. I packed my clothes with my brother and I cried. My mum told me not to cry. The fire was three paddocks away from us.

Mum and dad went to see the fire. Dad got smoke in his chest and sick and I screamed.

The animals got killed. If we went to Uncle Arthur's the cat would've got burnt to death.

My chooks ran away, but they came back.

Natalie got scared and Helen told me not to cry.

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Alex's Story.jpg Alex Robinson - Grade 4 The day was a normal hot windy summer day. It was about forty degrees. Then Wendy Vaughan came in and said that there was a fire at the back of Fram. so we evacuated the school and I ended up at Shepherd's. Jody let me have a ride on his mini-bike. Then I rang mum but she didn't answer so I played Big Rider with Jody. Then I rang mum again and she answered. I was so relieved. She told me to stay at Shepherd's house. So Jody and I went for another ride on the mini bike. Then we had to put it away because it was almost out of petrol.

Mum and Lucy were in the shed. They told me that they put the cat in the showere and filled the spouts with water, shut all the windows and put things in the bath. Then Mr Shepherd told us to get into Terang. So we set off.

When we got into Terang mum went and got a drink for us. Then a man came and said that we could go over to the C.W.A. Hall and get a cup of tea and some bickies. Jody and me pinched a can of coke then we went back to the cars.

Lucy was going to the Fire Station and got hit by a car and had to go to hospital. The Doctor said she had concussion and might forget things. Then mum went over to the Fire Station to ask a fire man if we could go home. The fire man said we could.

When we got home the wool shed was burnt and the machinery shed also. The hay stack was burnt too. So we stayed at Shepherd's. When we went home all our cousins were there to help us.

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David's Story (1).jpg David McGinness - Grade 6 We came in to school to do art, when Wendy came in and said there was a grass fire coming towards Framlingham. Mr McCorkell said we had to evacuate.So Wendy took Leanne and Richard Sawyer, Tiffany Allan, Megan Glennen, Melissa, Colin and myself to her place. We put our bags in the boot of her car. Then we all got in and went. When we got to the bridge the Mortlake tanker went past us. I was feeling scared because the fire was not far away.

When we got to Wendy's place we went into the house. Then we sat down for a minute and Mrs. Vaughan took us down to the cow yard. When we got there we could see Drake's house with flames not far away. We were sitting on the concrete when sparks started to come through the window. So we hopped in the trough and put a towel over our heads. We could hardly breath because the smoke was too thick. Just then I called Richard over. I put a rug over us. Just then Mrs. Vaughan said to get into the car. But we had get back in the dairy because the flames were too big.

We waited for an hour. When Wendy came over, Mrs. Vaughan asked her what the time was. 1/4 past 7. Just then the cypress tree went up. So we got out and went up the track and stayed on the lawn for a few minutes and then we went into the house and had a drink. At nine o'clock we had a sausage with bread. I waited for mum and then I saw her coming up the track. Wendy took us over to where the car was. The roof of the garage was on top of her car. We saw a dead horse in the stable. The float and the ute were under the rubble. Then we went to the car mum came in. We got in the car and went home. We went past a hay shed. When we got to the bridge it was on the ground burning away. When we got home there was a big fire at Garvoc. Two minutes after, Leanne's mother came to see if my mum was there. Then mum rang up the Police because Frank Healy was missing.

The next day my Aunty came to take us to Warrnambool. Mum said I had to go over to the cow yard to get Smokey. When I got there I was just about to put on his bridle. I saw smoke coming from the other side of the hill. I ran over to the house with Smokey and called to dad, "There's a fire coming towards the house." So dad got in the car and went to Peter Clark's place to get a tanker that he had down his paddock. When we got to Panmure we asked a man if he could get a fire truck to go to McGinness's. When we went I felt guilty because I was not at home helping mum

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David's Story (2).jpg fight the fire. When I came back from Warrnambool mum said there had been one more fire since the one on Friday. My Uncle got me a new cricket bat because my mum told him that I lost mine in the back of Wendy's car.

David McGinness.

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Tiffany's Story.jpg Tiffany Allan - Grade 6 It was Ash Wednesday and it was a very hot day. Mum, dad, Simon and Andrew were in Warrnambool. While we were at school, about 2.00pm, Wendy Vaughan came in and said to evacuate because there was a fire at Ballangeich.

So Mr. McCorkell rang Mrs. McGinness to see if she could take some children but she wasn't there. He then rang Mrs. Stuart to see if she could take some children and she could. So Mr. Shepherd, Mrs. Stuart and Wendy Vaughan took some kids. Wendy took David and Colin McGinness Leanne and Richard Sawyer, Melissa Vaughan, Megan Glennen and I. Mrs. Stuart took Mark Leesa, Helen, Natalie, Damien, Jayne and Donna to Purnim. Wendy took us to her house.

When we got there we went and got a drink. Then Mrs. Vaughan gave us a towel so that when we went down to the cow yard we could wet it and cover our heads. We had to go down to the cow yard because it was too dangerous without much water around. Then she took us down to the dairy. She then told us to lay on the ground in the dairy. After a while, at about 4.00pm, a blaze of fire came in the window and door. Then Mrs. Vaughan told us to get in the trough. We were all screaming and terrified.

So we all got in the trough and covered our heads with a wet towel. Mrs. Vaughan was getting buckets of water out of the trough and throwing them on to the rafters in the dairy.

Then after a while Wendy came down to tell us that the house was safe. Then Mrs. Vaughan saw one of the large trees on fire. So we got out of the trough and started running up the track. When we got up to the house, we sat on the lawn. The fence was still burning but the lawn was safe. Wendy went inside and got us a drink. When we had a drink Mrs. Vaughan said we could go inside for a while so the fire would pass. There was no telephone or electricity. Then the Drakes came over. They were upset because their house was destroyed, so we comforted them.

We heard on the battery radio it was half past eight. Mrs. Vaughan cooked some sausages on the gas stove and we had some tea. Then about one hour later Annie came up and took David, Colin and I to her house. Then dad came and told me that mum, Simon and Andrew were at Warrnambool staying the night. I started crying because I had missed him, and then he said he was staying there the night. It made me feel better.

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Melissa's Story.jpg Melissa Vaughan - Prep We went to my house. There was Poppy, Nan, Mum, Leanne, Richard, Colin, David and Tiffany.

I played with my toys. I thought the fire would burn my B.M.X bike but it didn't.

We went down to the cow-yard and hopped into the trough so we wouldn't die. The fire was all around the cow-yard.

We hopped out of the trough for a minute and then hopped back in because nan told us too (sic). We put wet towels over our head.

After the fire we went up to the house. We sat out on the grass and mummy brought out a drink to share.

All the flowers were gone, and the haystack and Poppy's working shed. Woofer was dead.

Mum's car got burnt with the school bags in it.

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Jody's Story (1).jpg Jody Shepherd - Grade 5 The fire started on Wednesday the 16th of February. On Wednesday in school we head to evacuate. Wendy Vaughan rang our mums and dads up. I was scared. Dad came to pick us up. Alex, Julie and I were scared. When we got home Alex rang his mum up. We went out and had a ride on the mini bike. Then we went over to the dairy. I saw the fire. Dad told me to get the hell out of here. Alsex and I went back to the cars and then we went into Terang. About ten minutes later Lucy got hit by a car. She went to hospital but she never died. She only got concussion. Then we all went to Eldridge's place. The smoke was getting thicker. The boys mother went and got the sheep. Then we went back into Terang. Then we got a drink. Alex and I went into the C.W.A. Hall. We nicked two cans of coke. Then we went behind the C.W.A. Hall. And then we went back home. I nearly started to cry. The Robinsons slept at our place. The next day we all cleaned up.

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Natalie's Story.jpg Natalie Kearns - Grade 3 Lynch's came down to our house. She tole my mum there was a fire. We were at school. Wendy came down to the school. Wendy told Mr. McCorkell that there was a fire. We all looked out of the window. We got our bags and we left.

When I went outside there was smoke everywhere. I fell over but I didn't cry. We went in Mark's car. Then Mark's mother dropped us off at our house. I fell over again. Then I screamed. I got to the front gate and I ran inside. We packed our things. We had to leave some of our things in the house.

We got the dog. Mum had to look for the cats but there was no time. Sandy got out. Mum had to chase him. Then Sandy got out again. Mum had to chase after Sandy again. We had to leave.

We went to our neighbour's house. We had a drink of water and then we left. We went up to the Purnim store. We got a drink there then went to the Purnim Hall. I had a drink there. Mum said she would go back and have a look. The house wasn't burnt. Then Mum picked me up and then I went home.

All the people came to our house. We had sandwiches at our house. We unpacked our things. We didn't have much tea. We lost some of our sheep. We didn't lose any cows. We lost fences. Dad will have to order a new fence.

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Simon's Story.jpg Simon Allan - Grade 5 I was in Warrnambool. We were just about to go home then we had to get meat. When I went into the Butcher's he said there was a fire at Naringal. Then I got the meat and said good bye and went and told dad. I went into the Hotel and told him. He had just finished his beer, so he came. Then we hopped into the car. On the way home we stopped at the Wangoom Store. We went in. The man at the shop said "the fire is at Framlingham". We got some milk and then went. We told dad and he went faster.

When we got to Fram they said the bridge was gone. I was scared. We went another way. When we got home the neighbors (sic) were burnt out. Dad started to get water. The dairy was on fire. Dad couldn't save it. We started to put out fires around the house. My animals were alright. When all the fires were out, we went around to McGinness's place and stayed there for a while. Dad went with the fire truck back to our place to put out the fire on the old tree. After dad came back and picked us up, we went back home. When it was getting dark mum, Andrew and I went to my Aunty's place in Warrnambool. Dad slept in the car in case the house caught alight. In the morning we went home. That night we went over to Koroit to my nan's place. We stayed there for about two weeks and went to school there.

Dad was going out to the farm every day. I went there every week end to help dad. When we came home we cleaned up the dirty house. I helped my uncle load the tin that was burnt. We didn't lose many cows. Some hay came after a while. I had to sell my calf and I got $98.

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Megan's Story.jpg Megan Glennen - Grade 4 It was Wednesday when the fire started. We had to evacuate the school. At first I was not scared. When they evacuated the school Wendy took Colin, Lil, Richard, David, Melissa, Tiffany and me to her place. They thought it was safe at the house. Then we got a towel and went to the cowyard and wet our towels over our heads.

We could see the fire. When it got really close we were scared. It got so close that we had to get in the trough and get down low. It got really close. It was cold and we stayed in there for a long time. We got out for a minute and then we got back in.

When we got out again the tree on top of the cowyard caught on fire. We ran back to the house and sat on the grass for a while and Wendy got a drink for us. A while later we went inside and had a wash. After we had a wash we had a play and a hot-dog as we waited for someone to pick us up. Before I was picked up I thought that I would have to stay at Wendy's place. It was late when I was picked up.

On the way home I saw bits of fire everywhere. When I got home it looked black. Dad said that he rode my horse through the fire.

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Colin's Story (1).jpg Colin McGinness - Grade 4 It was Wednesday and the wind was very strong. When it was half past two Wendy came in and said that there was a fire near by. Mr. McCorkell said we have to evacuate the school. Wendy took Lil, Richard, Megan, Melissa, Tiffany, Davey and me. We went to Wendy's place. We were at the house for a while. Then Mrs. Vaughan said to get a towel and go to the dairy. We were in the shed for a while and then we saw fire. It was going to Drake's house. The fire was at a plantation close to Drake's house.

When we had got to the dairy , Mrs. Vaughan had said to wet the towels. Not long after that the fire was all around the dairy. Mrs. Vaughan said to get in the trough. We all got in the trough. Melissa was hanging over the side of the trough. We had our towels over our heads. A man hamed Frank left his car at the dairy. Mrs. Vaughan started throwing buckets of water at the fire. Megan kept looking out to see if it got better. It was still burning. I looked around and thought I saw the house burning. I wasn't sure if it was the house. The smoke started to settle down.

Then Wendy came in. I felt a little safer. But a tree started burning near the dairy. Wendy said to get out of the trough and go up to the house. Well at least the house is still standing. We ran up to the house and stayed outside until Wendy said to go inside. I looked out the window and saw Wendy's car and the hayshed were burnt. I asked if I could lay down on the couch. I had a rest for a while. Then Drake's came to Wendy's. They only saved a few dogs. Their house was burnt down. They were going to get Fred the cockatoo but Mr. Drake said to leave him.

We sat down and listened to the radio. The man said that all kids at school in Warrnambool who had families around the fire area had to stay in Warrnambool. After a couple of minutes some more people came. Lots of other people came. Wendy got some bread and butter and made some hot dogs. We were waiting for our mothers to come. Sawyers mother came. She looked very worried. Then I saw mum come in. We thanked Mrs. Vaughan for saving our lives and went home. Tiffany came with us.

We went past Framlingham. The Store, the bridge, the Hall, the school house, the plantation, Damiens Grandmas house, the holiday house, Nash's house, the Gymkhana sheds, the back of Hall's house, were all destroyed. We went home. When we got there I was glad to see everything standing. Mum said that the drovers saved our cattle because our back paddock was burnt.

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Colin's Story (2).jpg It was getting dark. Then Sawyer's came and also Squares. Squares took us to Purnim to get our car. We went to Inverarity's to get the food out of the ute. We went back home. There was a fire that was close to our house. Mum said to have a rest in bed.

The next morning I heard the telephone ring. It was Judy Smith. She asked if she could look after us. I said to her to ring back at nine o'clock. I put the phone down and went over to the dairy to tell mum who rang up. After a while the phone rang again. Mum answered it. It was Judy again. Mum said that it would be okay to look after us. It was going to be safe in Warrnambool.

Colin McGinness.

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Julie's Story (1).jpg Julie Shepherd - Grade 6 When dad picked us up from school I was nervous. When we got home mum, dad and Mrs. Sparrow got all the cows from the top paddock to bring home. Dad went and got the dairy cows but when he got out of the red gums paddock, the fire was just going through as dad was going through the gate. he got the cows home allright (sic) and then Mr Robinson came to drop off Mrs Robinson at our place. Jody, Alex and I went to the dairy. Dad told us to go to Terang with mum and Sue while Mrs Sparrow went with Mrs Moloney. While we went to Terang, dad stayed home and helped to fight the fire with Mr Robinson and the firemen. He was trying to save the houses.

When we got to Terang we parked in a parking bay and we got a drink at a shop. When we sat down and had our drink, Mrs Robinson and Lucy went over to the fire station to ask if it was safe to go home but it wasn't. About twenty minutes later Mrs Robinson and Lucy went back over again. When she came back Lucy was hit by a car, so they took her to the hospital. The doctor had a look to see what was wrong with Lucy and he said that she had a bump on the back of her head andd bad concussion.

After she went to the hospital we all went to the C.W.A. hall to get a drink and something to eat. Then we went to the pub to go to the toilet. After that we went back to the cars and sat listening to the radio. Marlene and Peter drove up beside us and Marlene came over to see if Mrs Sparrow and the dog were alright. Mrs Sparrow started crying and Marlene too. After Marlene and Peter came we went over to the shop to get a drink. When I sat down drinking my drink I was nervous and scared. We sat and sat until we heard some news. When we were waiting we went to the fire station to see if it was safe to go back. We asked the man but he was on the phone so we went back to the car. Mum said to Mrs Robinson "We will go back home."

We started for home and all we could see were sparks flying from everywhere. When we got home dad told us that the horses jumped through the fire. Mrs Robinson stayed at our place for the night because there was no electricity and it was dangerous at her house. I couldn't get to sleep. Mum stayed up all night and dad got two hours sleep. Mrs Robinson went back to the house to see how Jim was going.

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Julie's Story (2).jpg The next morning she left at six o'clock to go back home. When I got out of bed I went outside to have a look and I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw what had happened to the paddock and next door over the road. We drove around the road to see who got burnt and then we went home.

A Select List of Major Bushfires Occurring in the Month of February

February is historically an extremely dangerous bushfire month in Victoria with many fires causing devastating tolls of human lives, livestock, property and, of course, uncounted and undocumented loss of wildlife. Naturally, records are only available since European settlement and they make grim reading.

  • "Black Thursday" 6 February 1851 - Fires covered around a quarter of what is now-known as Victoria (roughly 5 million hectares) with the loss of 12 lives, one million sheep and thousands of cattle
  • "Red Tuesday" 1 February 1898 - Twelve lives, two thousand buildings and 260,000 hectares burnt in South Gippsland
  • 14 February 1926 - 31 deaths recorded at Warburton. Many fires burnt across Victoria throughout February and on into March with a loss of sixty lives over this period.
  • 1944 - Between 14 January and 14 February, fires in the Western Districts destroyed over 500 houses and caused huge losses in the pastoral industry. At least four grass fires near Hamilton, Dunkeld, Skipton and Lake Bolac burnt approximately 440,000 hectares of land in approximately eight hours resulting in the loss of 15-20 lives. The total area of grass fires that season was estimated to be around one million hectares.
  • 5 February 1952 - A fire originating near Ballarat burnt approximately 100,000 hectares and caused the death of several people.
  • 21 February to 13 March 1965 - Fires in Gippsland burnt for 17 days and destroyed 300,000 hectares of forest, 15,000 hectares of grassland, 60 buildings and 4,000 head of livesstock.
  • 19 February 1968 - A fire in the Dandenong Ranges, including The Basin and Upwey, burnt 1,920 hectares of land, destroying 53 houses and 10 other buildings.
  • 12 February 1977 - Wide-spread fires across the Western District caused the deaths of four people, the loss of more that 198,500 stock, 116 houses, 340 other buildings and destroyed approximately 103,000 hectares of land.
  • 1 February 1983 - 6,100 hectares of land (including 1,864 Hectares of State Forest) and fifty houses destroyed at Mt Macedon.
  • "Ash Wednesday" 16 February 1983 - These fires are Victoria's (and perhaps Australia's) most well-known bushfire event. There were more than 100 fires which consumed more than 210,000 hectares and resulted in the loss of 47 lives. Over 2000 houses and more than 27,000 livestock were destroyed. The most severely affected areas were Monivae, Branxholme, East Trentham, Mt Macedon, the Otway Ranges, Warburton, Belgrave Heights, Cockatoo, Beaconsfield Upper and Framlingham.
  • "Black Saturday" 7 February 2009 - Victoria's worst bushfire day on record (to date)when 173 people lost their lives along with the destruction of more than 2,000 properties, 61 businesses and 430,000 hectares of land (affecting 70 national parks and reserves and over 3,550 agricultural facilities). Police stations, schools, kindergartens, churches, community halls, sporting clubs, fire and emergency services facilities were also destroyed or badly damaged.

(Statistics taken from Bushfire history - Major bushfires in Victoria on the DSE Website)

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