About 2019-2020 Fires

With three years of below average rainfall across much of East Gippsland and Hume Region, there was significant fire activity in Victoria during the 2019–20 fire season.

Forest Fire Danger Indices were very much above average across Victoria and were the highest on record for East Gippsland.

Timeline of activities

21-22 November 2019  

On 21 November, a Code Red fire danger rating was declared for the Mallee and Northern Country and there was a statewide Total Fire Ban (TFB). Lightning storms caused more than 50 fires on 22 November. Local CFA crews worked closely with Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMVic) crews. The majority of fires were contained within a day and no homes or lives were lost.

24 December 2019  

Three large fires remained out of control and on 24 December various CFA districts supported the existing firefighting efforts by supplying 14 strike teams on an ongoing basis. Each strike team comprised five fire trucks.

29 December 2019  

The Talmalmo fire from NSW entered Victoria northwest of Corryong and became known as the Upper Murray Walwa Fire.

30 December 2019  

The state had extreme fire danger ratings in seven out of nine districts and a statewide TFB. The fires in East Gippsland and the Upper Murray Walwa fire, plus a new fire from the previous day in Cann River, burned extensively during the day and overnight, driven by hot temperatures, high winds and extremely flammable fuels. Many communities and townships were threatened and impacted including Sarsfield, Buchan, Mallacoota and Corryong. The size of the combined fires grew by about 200,000 hectares overnight with many fires merging.

Also, a fire started which burned into Budj Bim National Park near Bessiebelle. It threatened World Heritage-listed Aboriginal cultural sites but was contained in 17 days. Lightning storms continued to hit Victoria over the following days, with more fires in the forested areas of Gippsland and Hume regions. During the following weeks, many communities were isolated and continued to be threatened by fire. A massive multi-agency logistical effort moved personnel and essential supplies in and out of affected areas, as well as evacuations of communities via boat and helicopter.

2 January 2020  

A State of Disaster was declared by the Victorian Government and 63,000 people heeded advice to leave the area. Significant smoke in the affected areas impacted human health and caused the grounding of many aircraft used to move fire and emergency management crews around the state.

After an exhausting 90-day response, and with 1.5 million hectares burned, the last of these fires was declared contained. Tragically, five lives were lost during this period, consisting of two members of the public, two FFMVic firefighters and one fire contractor. In addition, 405 residential homes and more than 650 non-residential structures were damaged or destroyed.

Although most of the significant fire activity occurred in Gippsland and Hume regions, some challenging and complex fires occurred elsewhere including a fire in Plenty Gorge, South Morang, which escalated rapidly and threatened houses in Bundoora. A multi-agency effort including CFA, FFMVic and Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) worked together in conjunction with concentrated air attack to bring the fire under control. This fire was contained after 31 hours, but crews patrolled for another 10 days.


An Emergency Warning was issued for Mallacoota at 4.40pm on 30 December 2019. The fire behaviour was severe with the highest intensity in areas of greater fuel loads. In some areas the fire spread from structure to structure while in others it burned among vegetation. Reports concluded that the fire behaviour was severe. The fire took a heavy toll despite no lives being lost. The event took a personal toll on locals and tourists financially, physically and emotionally. There was a substantial loss of private dwellings, holiday houses, and rental stock (more than 100 homes). Economically there was a loss of business assets, future income and potential for growth. The Abalone Cooperative building, a major employer in town, was partially destroyed.

Summary of the major bushfires 2019/20.

Date Incident location Description
11/09/2019 Queensland deployment
  • 7 days duration
06/10/2019 NSW deployment
  • 77 days duration 
Queensland deployment
  • 18 days duration
Strathallan – Burgoine Road
  • 3 days duration
Snowy Complex
  • Cann River - Banana Tk fire and W Tree - Yalmy fire
  • 97 days duration
  • 662,500 hectares.
Tambo Complex
  • Ensay - Ferny Creek fire, Marthavale - Barmouth Spur fire and Gelantipy - Never Never Creek fire
  • 89 days duration
  • 324,739 hectares.
Lexton - Ben Major
  • 10 days duration
  • 2,792 hectares
Taplan - Settlement
  • 22 days duration
Crawford River - Boulevard
  • 2,958 hectares
Upper Murray Walwa
  • 200,442 hectares
Budj Bim
  • 10 days duration
  • 6,369 hectares
Plenty Gorge
  • 11 days duration
Cobungra - Dinner Plain Tk
  • 10,758 hectares
Abbeyard - Yarrabula South
  • 151,221 hectares.
Hotham Heights - Blue Bag Range
  • 35,700 hectares
Shannonvale - McNamara Hut
  • 44,308 hectares
Buenba – Pheasant Creek Tk
  • 90,003 hectares



Page last updated:  Monday, 17 April 2023 4:41:50 PM