On the 16th of February 1983, over 100 fires swept over Victoria and South Australia, leaving devastation and tragedy behind. In total, there were 75 deaths, and thousands of buildings were lost, on a day that would be forever remembered as Ash Wednesday.
The fires burnt over 520,000 hectares across Victoria, and South Australia. More then 3700 buildings were destroyed. A total 2400 families or individuals lost there homes, and 75 people were killed, 47 in Victoria and 28 in South Australia. Over 340,000 sheep and 18,000 cattle were either dead or had to be destroyed, while 20,000km of fencing and 1.5 million bales of hay were burnt.
Between April 1982 and January 1983, Victoria experienced severe drought conditions and little rainfall, resulting in its driest period on record. A combination of dry grasslands and forests, very hot temperatures, low humidity and high wind gusts presented Victoria with a high bushfire risk. The temperature was 43 degrees Celsius on Ash Wednesday.
The largest fires started in Victoria at Cudgee and Branxholme (near Warrnambool), around Mount Macedon, in the Dandenong Ranges - Cockatoo, Upper Beaconsfield and Belgrave Heights, Monivae, Branxholme, Warburton and in the Otways. Fires also broke out in South Australia, where 159,000 hectares of land in the Adelaide Hills were burnt in the fires.
The bushfires started in a number of ways: through the clashing of electric power lines, tree branches connecting with power lines, fires being deliberately lit, and through other unknown causes.
The Victorian fires burnt an area twice the size of metropolitan Melbourne, around 200,000 hectares.
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