Friday, February 16, marked the 35th anniversary of Ash Wednesday and Doug Bain, who was deployed to fight the fires that day, exhibited his classic CFA trucks in remembrance.
The vehicles were on display at Mokoan hub last weekend and Doug, who is still involved with the Taminick CFA, said he was proud to do his bit to honour those who lost their lives.
‘‘It’s just one of those things that’s big in people’s memories,’’ Mr Bain said.
‘‘The people I answered to on the day would be old men now, so I feel it’s important for guys my age to do what we can to remember that day and all the people we lost.
‘‘This is something that has vivid memories for me, and I’ve got this old equipment, which would have been brand-new, front-line equipment back in those days.
‘‘So this is my little way of just remembering the day.
‘‘A lot of people had the daylights frightened out of them 35 years ago and this has been a great opportunity to remember the great work the CFA do for their communities.’’
The Ash Wednesday fires started on a dry, hot morning in 1983.
Within 12 hours of the first alarm being raised more than 180 fires, fanned by 110km/h winds were spreading throughout Victoria and South Australia.
The fires were the deadliest in Australia’s history until the Black Sunday fires of 2009.
On that day more than 8000 people in Victoria alone were evacuated from their homes.
The tragedy resulted in 75 people losing their lives, 17 of whom were CFA and CFS volunteers.
Doug said his unit avoided the worst of the fires, but still experienced ‘‘chaos’’ after being deployed to Reefton and Warburton.
‘‘There were horses running everywhere, that’s one thing that I vividly remember,’’ he said.
‘‘All the fences had been burnt, so horses were running up and down the Warburton highway.
‘‘We were trying to check all the houses to see if the occupants were still there.
‘‘There were also pets running everywhere, cats and dogs that had been left behind during the panicked evacuation.
‘‘We spent most of the time hosing down the area to make it safe as the fire approached.
‘‘We were never deployed into the bigger fires, but the convoy I was involved in saved the Reefton Pub, which is something we’re very proud of.’’
CFA Goorambat operations manager Stewart Kreltszheim joined Doug at Mokoan Hub to honour the anniversary.
He said it was important for CFA members to remember the sacrifices made on days like Ash Wednesday.
‘‘It’s a day of remembrance and an acknowledgement of what happened that day and how things have changed over the years,’’ Mr Kreltszheim said.
‘‘If we look at what happened 35 years ago it probably changed the Victorian fire service forever. It led to huge changes in the design of fire trucks, in training and the co-ordination of fires.
‘‘I think 130000 Victorians and South Australians took part in fighting the fires and the relief and recovery effort that followed.
‘‘There were firefighters, other emergency personal, defence force personal and a lot of people from the communities just wanting to help.
‘‘That sense of community was a big part of what made me want to become a firefighter.’’