Bushfires in Victoria

Find books, government reports, websites, statistics, newspaper articles and images about Victorian bushfires from 1851 to today.


Widespread bushfires occurred in Victoria in early February 1851. The height of the destruction happened on Black Thursday, 6 February 1851.

'Fires covered a quarter of what is now Victoria (approximately 5 million hectares). Areas affected include Portland, Plenty Ranges, Westernport, the Wimmera and Dandenong districts. Approximately 12 lives, one million sheep and thousands of cattle were lost' (Forest Fire Management Victoria).

Advice on using the Library's catalogue and in-house indexes to research these fires can be found on our page about researching fires

This page includes advice about:



Black Thursday, February 6th. 1851, H28049

This painting of the 1851 fires, by William Strutt, is a State Library collection treasure. You can view and download a high resolution copy online.

The Library's Pictures Librarian Madeleine Say has written a detailed history of the painting: 'Black Thursday: William Strutt's "Itinerant Picture"' (La Trobe Journal, No 75 Autumn 2005).

You can watch Virginia Dahlenburg, former senior conservator of paintings at the Library, talk about the painting online.

Newspaper reports

Newspapers reports began appearing in the days immediately after the fires on 6 February 1851.

The reports contained information from eyewitnesses. There was news about the fundraising efforts of relief committees.

Reports on the coroner's findings regarding some fire deaths also appeared in the days and weeks after the fires.

Advice on using the Library's newspapers collection to research these fires can be found on our Research fires page.

Attached are some reports that appeared in Melbourne's Argus newspaper. Reports from the Argus and other Australian newspapers can be found using the Trove newspapers search engine.

Hold your mouse over the link for additional information. Click on the link to view the article.