Of the 21 deaths, the most significant numbers occurred in Lara where 18 people lost their lives, including 17 motorists, who died on the Princes Highway as they left their cars in dense smoke and tried to flee the fire on foot.
The Brigades and communities from Lara and Little River will today remember the Victorians who lost their lives at a commemoration ceremony in Lara.
Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville and CFA Chief Officer Steve Warrington will both attend to pay their respect.
On that day 230 fires burned across Victoria, 21 were serious including fires in Lara, Daylesford, Bulgana, Yea, Darraweit Guim, Kangaroo Flat and Korongvale.
More than 250,000 hectares, 230 houses and more than 12,000 livestock were destroyed.
The fire in Lara started in the You Yangs early that morning. Only an hour later it had crossed the Princes Highway. It continued to burn all the way to Corio Bay.
Chief Officer Warrington said it was an honour to remember those who lost their lives, their families, their homes, and their livelihoods on 8 January 1969.
“We honour the service of those brigade members who responded, battling extreme conditions to save lives and property while witnessing the tragic aftermath of the fire on their community,” he said.
“Next month we will also recognise the 10th anniversary of the 2009 Victorian bushfires. With each of these anniversaries comes reflection.
“From the Lara fires we learnt about the importance of community education, but it was also the first occasion when evidence suggested it would be more beneficial for community members to remain inside a vehicle rather than abandoning it when a fire front crosses. This was fundamental shift in fire safety that has saved many lives in the past half century.”
Media are invited to attend a public commemoration service this morning to mark the 50th anniversary of the fatal Victorian fires in 1969,
What: Media are invited to attend the commemoration service for the fires.
When: 11.30pm Lara Fires Memorial (next to the Lara Library), 11.30am to 12.30pm
Who: Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville and CFA Chief Officer Steve Warrington will be available to speak to media after the commemoration service.