17 Feb 2013

1983 Ash Wednesday fires remembered

7:25 am on 17 February 2013

Commemorations are being held around Victoria and South Australia this weekend to mark the 30th anniversary of the Ash Wednesday bushfires.

The fires on 16 February, 1983, burned more than 200,000 hectares of land in Victoria and South Australia and killed 75 people.

Fourteen of the 47 who died in Victoria were volunteer firefighters and three of the 28 dead in South Australia, were firefighters.

The ABC reports the biggest service will be on Sunday, in Upper Beaconsfield, east of Melbourne, with more than 500 people expected to attend.

On Saturday, Country Fire Authority volunteers laid a wreath and observed one minute's silence at the site in Upper Beaconsfield, where 12 firefighters lost their lives.

The crews from Panton Hill and Narre Warren were trapped in their vehicles when the fire raced up a steep ravine towards the town.

State Premier Ted Baillieu said the memories of 1983's fatal blazes will forever remain in the minds of those who endured them. He said the anniversary has a particular resonance for the victims of more recent fires as well.

"We reach out to all of those who suffered through Ash Wednesday and of course to all of those who suffered through subsequent fires, including Black Saturday and obviously over the last few days in Harrietville."

Services are also being held in South Australia.

Country Fire Service chief officer Greg Nettleton told a service at Mount Lofty, overlooking Adelaide, on Saturday that Ash Wednesday represented the largest loss of life of firefighters in a single day in Australia's history.