Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Tasmania -- Bushfire 1967

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the worst fires in the history of Tasmania. I was 16, working in my father’s hotel in the middle of the city. We knew it was a scorchingly hot day and the wind was blowing up, but we could never have believed the inferno that was about to descend on the country and suburbs. 

As the day went on, conditions worsened. The sky darkened, and a chokingly hot wind swept across the city. I stepped out the front door, and the street outside was filled with ash blowing through the city. All but one of the radio stations was off the air because the landlines to the transmitters had been victims of the fires, but we were getting news of the suburbs and the streets that the fires had been through.

My father went down to a hardware store and bought an extra long length of hose in case he needed to damp down the roof if embers started to land on it -- that’s if the water had been available. My mother was freaking out a bit because she didn’t know where my sister was; she got in the car and drove around looking for her, passing the Botanical Gardens where men with hessian bags were trying to beat out fires.

Eventually my sister turned up safe and sound. All my family came through that day safely. But after five hours, there were 62 people dead, 900 injured and over seven thousand homeless. No one who was there on that Tuesday in 1967 will ever forget it.
(Picture shows Lenah Valley in 1967 fire)

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