Bright Plantation Fire – 1982.

Maybe it was an ominous foreboding of a long fire season ahead for the CFA and the Forests Commission Victoria (FCV).

Major bushfires broke out in November 1982 at Seaton, Murrindal and Mt Elizabeth in Gippsland, as well as the mallee desert and Mt. Disappointment near Broadford

On Wednesday 24 November at 2.00 pm a fire started in the Two-Mile Creek plantation south of Porepunkah.

Bright fire #5 originated in some slash from a clear-felling operation in a stand of 1931 Pinus radiata. It was thought to have ignited by a spark from a chainsaw.

Derrick Rolland was the District Forester at Bright.

At 4.00 pm the wind strengthened, and the fire increased rapidly in size and burnt both sides of the Ovens Valley highway and was heading towards Bright. Houses were threatened in many places.

The most significant feature of this particular fire was the long-distance spotting of up to 1.8 km in pine plantations.

The 675-ha fire was contained later the next day. Over two days it burnt through native forest, private land and caused about $1.2 million worth of damage to 350 ha of FCV pine plantations.

The old Forests Commission plantation and nursery on the back Porepunkah Road was burnt too.

The nursery had been established at the turn of last century to raise pine seedlings to repair the damage left after gold mining along the Ovens Valley.

A large Californian Redwood, planted by the Commission in 1923, is all that remains after the fire and the site being converted into a golf course. The tree is listed by the National Trust of regional significance.

This 1982 Bright plantation fire is often confused with major bushfires at Bright and Mt Buffalo two years later on 14 January 1985 when 111 lighting strikes in 24 hours caused widespread fires across the alpine region.

The 1985 fires were the first major test for the newly formed Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands (CFL). It was also the largest deployment of firefighting aircraft in Australia up to that time, including 20 helicopters and 16 fixed-wing aircraft from the FCV, Australian Defence Force and NSCA.

Progression of the Bright plantation fire – November 1982. Map produced by Owen Salkin 2022. Based on FCV Fire Research Report No. 19 (1983). Neil Watson, Gary Morgan and Derrick Rolland.

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