The 1982-83 Victorian Bushfire Season, including Ash Wednesday – 16 February 1983.

Free e-book now available.

Forty years ago, south eastern Australia was in the middle of a prolonged drought and facing a perilous bushfire season.

A new ebook provides a detailed account of the 1982-83 bushfire season from a Victorian forester’s perspective.

And while the bushfire season is best remembered for those on Ash Wednesday on 16 February 1983, where 47 people died In Victoria and a further 28 in South Australia, significant bushfires occurred right across Victoria from August 1982 until April 1983.

It was a long and hectic fire season for the Forests Commission Victoria (FCV) which attended 878 fires on State forests and National Parks totalling 486,030 ha, which was well above the 11-year average of 141,000 ha.

Over the 1982-83 fire season, 22 Total Fire Ban (TFB) days were declared. Close co-operation was maintained with the Victoria Police and Country Fire Authority (CFA) which attended nearly 3,200 fires during the summer fire danger period.

A large part of this document outlines the accumulated wisdom, achievements, planning and preparations undertaken by the Forests Commission (now DELWP / FFMVic) to build an effective firefighting organisation in the decades following the catastrophic 1939 bushfires leading up to the 1982-83 season.

Major campaign bushfires at Cann River together with a forensic analysis of the bushfire at Greendale on 8 January 1983 which killed two Forests Commission machine operators, Des Collins and Alan Lynch, is included.

The role of the Commission in major bushfires on Ash Wednesday is also described in some detail.

The aftermath of the bushfires is outlined as well as the major organisational changes introduced by the new Cain Labor State Government from mid-1983.

Sadly, very little can be easily found in old newspapers, in books, or on the internet about the significant role of the FCV. 

This story of the 1982-83 fire season was assembled nearly 40 years after the momentous events using internet searches, newspaper accounts, coroner’s reports, FCV files held in the Public Record Office, witness statements, police reports, personal recollections and some limited interviews.

There remain significant gaps and sadly many of the key FCV staff are no longer alive or available to give their version of events.

My main hope is to tell some of the rich story of the Forests Commission during the 1982-83 fire season and place it on the public record in time for forthcoming 40th anniversary next year.

A free e-book has been lodged in the State and National libraries as an enduring record of the Forests Commission, and its staff’s, achievements.

or here

I’m happy for you to download and share this work.

Cover: Forest firefighting by Robert McHugh (Age 9).
World Forestry Day – 1999.

Forest firefighting by Robert McHugh (Age 9).
World Forestry Day – 1999

3 thoughts on “The 1982-83 Victorian Bushfire Season, including Ash Wednesday – 16 February 1983.

  1. Peter, an excellent book which I enjoyed reading thoroughly.

    A minor criticism: David Paterson; one “t” and not 2.

    Regards, Jim


    1. Thanks Jim. The document has been lodged in the state library and can’t be changed. It’s a pity I spelt David’s name incorrectly. He was my first boss and Mirboo North and a decent bloke too. I hope you can come to the memorial service I’m trying to arrange at Greendale for next year. Carol will be there as well as DELWP, the CFA and the Lynch family. Just a small low-key affair. An invitation will follow. Cheers


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