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Ash Wednesday 30th Anniversary
Today, 16 February, marks the 30th anniversary of the Ash Wednesday fires.
Up until four years ago Ash Wednesday was one of the worst disasters in the history of Victoria and an event which still lives with us today along with Black Saturday.
The Ash Wednesday fires took the lives of 47 Victorians and burned 2,080 homes. Many businesses, stores, equipment, machinery, stock and other private assets were lost in the blazes that spread to around 210,000 hectares.
It’s important that we use this anniversary to honour those who fought and lived through Ash Wednesday and also those who didn’t make it back. Of the 47 people who lost their lives in Victoria, 14 were our own firefighters from the Panton Hill, Nar Nar Goon, Narre Warren and Wallacedale brigades.
Over 16,000 firefighters battled the Ash Wednesday fires, including park and forest firefighters and CFA volunteers. Many of these CFA firefighters are now receiving their badges for 40 and 50 years’ service.
This anniversary will also be a time to celebrate the remarkable resilience of our communities which have recovered and rebuilt, and remain vigilant against the ever-present threat of bushfire.
Many of our members were inspired to join their local brigade after seeing our firefighters in action during the Ash Wednesday fires and were inspired by their bravery. We have many exceptional members around the state today – captains, group officers, incident controllers, crew leaders, firefighters and community safety educators – who joined as a result of living through the Ash Wednesday fires.
CFA thrives because of the training, the hard work and the community mindedness of thousands of Victorians and we succeed because we learn from experience. Experience has taught us so much about wellbeing and safety, command and control, vehicle design, tactics and fire behaviour.
As flags fly at half-mast to honour the memory of all those who died, CFA members know that we are a better fire service because of the dedication of all those who have come before. We are built on solid foundations.