Tarrawingee firefighters honoured on 75th anniversary

CFA is honouring the 10 firefighters who lost their lives in a devastating fire, while protecting the Tarrawingee community, 75 years ago.


On 22 December 1943, high temperatures and hot north-westerly winds combined to create a raging fire at Bowser by the Hume Highway which saw volunteer firefighters immediately respond from all directions.

The fire quickly burned its way towards Tarrawingee where firefighters and their trucks had lined up to battle the blaze. Suddenly the wind changed direction with the fire moving south, taking the lives of eight men and two young boys in what remains one of the greatest loss of firefighters in the line of duty in Victoria’s history.

Tarrawingee monument

CFA Chief Officer Steve Warrington said as a result of the Tarrawingee fire, the Government saw the urgent need to improve firefighting resources and equipment.

“This fire was also the catalyst for the formation of the Country Fire Authority which occurred a year later in 1944,” Mr Warrington said.

"As we approach Christmas with our families and loved ones, we remember and honour those brave men. We also reflect on the positive legacy from this tragedy with the incredible changes to our fire services training, equipment and resources.”

Valerie Clarke lost her father Norman Robinson in the Tarrawingee fire. She said she clearly remembers the day - so hot, so windy, a bushfire in the distance and Dad rushing home from work to join the firefighting operation.

“He was a hard-working man who loved his community. The firefighting trucks and equipment were so basic then, with so few protections. Yet he, like so many other men of his time, considered it their job to pitch in and fight the fires to protect their communities,” Mrs Clarke said.

In honour of the fallen firefighters, a monument was built near where the incident occurred. CFA has continued to hold services at the memorial to commemorate their bravery.

This year, CFA restored the monument in time for the 75th anniversary memorial service.

The service will be held at the monument site on the Great Alpine Road (near Petticoat Lane), Tarrawingee at 10.00am this Saturday, 22nd December.

The service will honour the sacrifice and memory of: Kevin Dunkley, Claude Hill, Andrew Guthrie, Theodore Lea, John Marks, Joseph Ryan, Norman Robinson, Edward Seymour, Godfrey Spencer and Arthur Wellington. 

May their legacy live on; their sacrifice never forgotten.

Author: CFA Media