1943–44 Victorian bushfire season

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The 1943–44 Victorian bushfire season was marked by a series of major bushfires following severe drought conditions in the state of Victoria in Australia. The summer of 1943–44 was the driest summer ever recorded in Melbourne with just 46 mm falling, a third of the average for the period.[1] Between 22 December and 15 February, 51 people were killed, 700 injured, and 650 buildings were destroyed across the state.[2] Many personnel who would have been normally available for fire fighting duties had been posted overseas and to remote areas of Australia during World War II.[1]

The first major fire was a grassfire at Wangaratta on 22 December which burnt hundreds of hectares and resulted in the deaths of 10 volunteer firefighters near Tarrawingee.[2] [3] On 14 January and the following day, fires broke out across the state.[1] To the west of Melbourne, a series of bushfires broke out between South Australian border and the outskirts of Geelong including areas near the towns of Hamilton, Skipton, Dunkeld, Birregurra and Goroke.[1] Many smaller towns were substantially damaged. In Derrinallum, the only buildings left standing were the Mechanics' Institute, two churches and several business premises.[4] In central Victoria, fires occurred near Daylesford, Woodend, Gisborne and Bendigo.[1] In the Melbourne area, 63 homes were destroyed at Beaumaris and another 5 in the Glenroy - Pascoe Vale area.[5]

On 14 February a fire broke out near Yallourn.[5] In Hernes Oak, 16 houses and the post office were destroyed while 80 houses were destroyed and 6 lives lost in the Morwell district and 40 houses destroyed and 3 deaths occurred in the Traralgon area.[5] A Royal Commission was held into the Yallourn fires in 1944.[6]

A major outcome following the fires was the establishment of the Country Fire Authority in 1945 to co-ordinate rural fire brigades.


  1. ^ a b c d e "The Beaumaris Bushfires of 1944". kingston historical website. City Of Kingston. Archived from the original on 15 June 2009. Retrieved 15 June 2009. 
  2. ^ a b "Western, Central and Southern Victoria: Bushfires". EMA Disasters Database. Emergency Management Australia. Retrieved 15 June 2009. 
  3. ^ "Memorial to Bushfire Victims". Wodonga and Towong Sentinel. Vic.: National Library of Australia. 5 January 1945. p. 5. Retrieved 31 December 2012. 
  4. ^ Blair, Suzanne J. (1987). Blair's guide: travel guide to Victoria and Melbourne. Blair's Guides. ISBN 0-7316-0506-3. 
  5. ^ a b c "First (and interim) report on bush fire at Yallourn on February 14th, 1944, with particular reference to report of Royal Commission of Inquiry, March 1944. Victoria.". State Electricity Commission. Archived from the original on 19 May 2009. Retrieved 15 June 2009. 
  6. ^ "Report of the Royal Commission to Inquire into the Place of Origin and the Causes of the Fires which Commenced at Yallourn on the 14th day of February 1944, the Adequacy of the Measures which had been taken to Prevent Damage and the Measures to be taken to Protect the Undertaking and Township at Yallourn". Victorian Parliamentary Paper; No. 4 of 1944. H.E. Daw, Govt. Printer, 1944. Digitised by the State Library of Victoria. Archived from the original on 21 July 2009. Retrieved 9 July 2009.