Bushfires in Victoria

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

Current fires

For current fire warnings visit Vic Emergency. For fast-breaking news follow ABC Emergency on Facebook and Twitter. Find more on our Current page.

Bushfire in State Library Victoria's collections

Bushfire has been part of Australian ecology from indigenous populations to colonial settlers and the present day, and it continues to exert a powerful influence of our national identity and imagination.

Many items in our collections bear testament to this relationship:

  • Paintings & photographs
  • Diaries and letters
  • Newspapers
  • Books and ebooks

For guidance on finding information see our Research page.  Explore some collection highlights here.

Gallery

Bushfire sketch. William Strutt

Bushfire sketch. William Strutt

[ca. 1851]

H91.282/2

This small study of smoke may have been executed soon after the events of Black Thursday, in February 1851. Strutt's journal records that while he was at work at Thomas Ham's lithographic office in Collins Street, smoke and ash filled the streets, unsettling the city's inhabitants. In the days following the disaster, Strutt completed many sketches based on eyewitness accounts of the devastation. On his return to England in 1862, these preliminary sketches formed the basis of the famous narrative painting Black Thursday, February 6th, 1851, which is held in the Library's collection.

Regrowth in forest after a bushfire. Rennie Ellis

[Regrowth in forest after a bushfire]. Rennie Ellis

1983

H2012.140/2786

11 transparencies in plastic and cardboard mount : kodachrome ; 35 mm.

Bushfire. Turner, James Alfred

Bushfire. James Alfred Turner

[ca. 1873-ca. 1908]

H2013.22/144

1 painting mounted on cardboard : watercolour on paper ; 12.3 x 8.5 cm., mount 16 x 26 cm.

Looking through trees toward red gold glow of fire burning in the midst of the bushland.

A bush fire to the north of Mount Moriac ... Michael Minter

A bush fire to the north of Mount Moriac ... Michael Minter

1854

H16573

watercolour ; 13.6 x 22.2 cm.

Sketchbook no. 3 Charlie Hammond

Sketchbook no. 3 page 28. Charlie Hammond

[ca. 1876 - ca. 1932]

BIB2022069

1 sketchbook : albumen silver, watercolors ; 28.0 x 39.5 x 3.3 cm.

"The wind changes! a run for life. A narrow escape from being burnt alive in the midst of hundreds of acres of dry bush. Another change of wind comes just in time to save us."

 

Illustrated Newspaper Files

Fire and flight

Fire and flight

February 20, 1875

A/S20/02/75/181

Wood engraving published in The Australasian sketcher.

View more Illustrated Newspaper Files in our catalogue.

Bush fires in the Heytesbury and Otway forests.

Bush fires in the Heytesbury and Otway forests.

February 10, 1886

PCINF AS 10-02-86 P.25

Print published in the Australasian sketcher with pen and pencil. The forest on fire -- Where homestead stood -- Trying for fresh air -- Homeless.

View more Illustrated Newspaper Files in our catalogue.

THE MORNING AFTER THE FIRE.

"THE MORNING AFTER THE FIRE."

April 1, 1890

PCINF IAN 01-04-90 SUPP

Wood engraving published in The Illustrated Australian news and musical times. 

Burnt out house in bush, brick fireplace alone left standing.

View more Illustrated Newspaper Files in our catalogue.

La Trobe Journal

The La Trobe Journal is State Library Victoria's scholarly publication. First published in April 1968, the journal features articles written by researchers who have drawn on the Library’s rich and varied collections as source material.

These articles explore material representing Victoria's bushfire history and unearth voices from our archives.

George Gordon McCrae — Black Thursday, 1851, No. 44, Spring 1989

Black Thursday: William Strutt's “Itinerant Picture', No. 75, Autumn 2005

From our Blog

Remembering Black Saturday blog

Bushfire and Aftermath: Remembering Black Saturday, 10 years on, through the work of John Gollings and Peter Wegner.

From our Archives

Bush-Fire by Sidney Nolan

We are nearer fire
than you know,
not the fire
of the brain or
even of saints,
not the fire
of reconciliation,
of rights, of fraternity
or even of charity.
We are nearer fire
than you know,
not the fire
of the heart or
even of love,
not the fire
of incredulity,
of spirit, of miracle
or even of truth.
Not these fires
but bright fire …
born of the grass
and trees, covering
the sky with
force, with fire …
demanding obedience;
making both eyes equally mad, and
enduring for ever.

While stationed at Dimboola in the Wimmera, Nolan was involved in fire-fighting. Nolan described the experience: "last night was like the beginning of a world, not much thought in my own mind anyway of the damage it was doing, it had a volition of its own that overpowered such thoughts …. I was frightened in some way of the might."

PoemsLa Trobe Journal No. 64, Spring 1999

 

"Every night that there is a strong North wind, we see “the Bush” on fire, and last night there was a burning about ¼ of a mile long a few miles from the town, which illuminated the heavens like a fine darkish sunset."

Manuscript: Three Westgarth LettersLa Trobe Journal No. 8, October 1971

 

 "The Bush was on fire in many places, some a mile wide, the smoke from which towering up obscured the sky and added to the hot wind. It is the grass and scrub that catches fire and it runs along the ground but only very rarely sets fire to a tree. It merely blackens the trunk. A thunder storm and the wind dropping, it dies away…"

George Rowe on the Bendigo DiggingsLa Trobe Journal No. 12, October 1973

 

"The wind changes! a run for life. A narrow escape from being burnt alive in the midst of hundreds of acres of dry bush. Another change of wind comes just in time to save us." Sketchbook no. 3. (28) Charlie Hammond

State Library Victoria

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