Remembering Ash Wednesday 1983

Today we remember the 75 lives that were lost during the Ash Wednesday bushfires in 1983.

On February 16, 1983, fires fanned by winds up to 110 km/h caused widespread destruction across South Australia and Victoria. There were 28 deaths in South Australia -  14 in the Hills and another 14 in the south-east and 47 in Victoria.  Three CFS volunteers, Andrew Lemke from Lucindale, Peter Matthies from Summertown and Brian Nosworthy from Callendale lost their lives, along with 13 CFA (Country Fire Authority) volunteer fire-fighters. The fires were the deadliest bushfires in Australian history until the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009.

The first fire was reported at 11:30 am at McLaren Flat, south of Adelaide. Within hours, multiple reports of breaking fires quickly began.  The total land area burnt was approximately 2,080 km² (513,979 acres, or 208,000 hectares) in South Australia and 2,100 km² (518,921 acres, or 210,000 hectares) in Victoria.  More than 300 homes were lost along with a hotel, a service station and 13 historic buildings.

Ash Wednesday 1983 McLaren Flat

2018-02-16 Peter Freeman