About Ash Wednesday

2023 marks the 40th anniversary of Ash Wednesday, one of the most significant bushfire events in Australian history.

There were more than 180 fires on 16 February 1983, including 8 major blazes across many towns and regional communities throughout Victoria. It is estimated more than 16,000 firefighters were involved in the response efforts.

Forty-seven Victorians lost their lives, including 14 CFA volunteers from the Panton Hill, Nar Nar Goon, Narre Warren and Wallacedale brigades.

CFA commemorated this anniversary with a state-based memorial service on Sunday 12th February 2023 at the Ash Wednesday Bushfire Education Centre, McBride Street, Cockatoo.

The location was chosen following consultation with Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) and the Veterans of Ash Wednesday Group from CFA District 8 as the location provides an overview of the eight major fires on the day. 

A live recording of the event can be viewed on CFA's YouTube channel. The program for the event can be downloaded here (PDF 9.7MB).




Leading up to Ash Wednesday there were also large fires in Greenvale on 8 January and at Macedon on 1 February. On 8 February there was a large dust storm, which covered large areas of Victoria.

Below is a breakdown of the following townships affected by the Ash Wednesday Fires.


Location Details of fire Losses

Cudgee / Ballangeich

The Cudgee fire started at 1.10pm. A private power line was suspected of being responsible for the Cudgee fire.

The Ballangeich fire started at 2.27pm.

  • People: 9
  • Area burnt: 50,000 hectares
  • Houses: 157
  • Other buildings: 715
  • Cattle / Sheep: 19,300

East Trentham / Mount Macedon

The started at 2.22pm. Suspected cause of the fire was due to power lines arcing when in contact with trees.

  • People: 7
  • Area burnt: 29,500 hectares
  • Houses: 157
  • Other buildings: 628
  • Cattle / Sheep: 7,700


The fire started at 2.56pm in the Dean's Marsh area.

  • People: 3
  • Area burnt: 41,000 hectares
  • Houses: 729
  • Other buildings: 53
  • Cattle / Sheep: 2,782

Belgrave heights / Beaconsfield Upper

The fire started at 3.24pm.

  • People: 21
  • Area burnt: 9,200 hectares
  • Houses and other buildings: 238
  • Cattle / Sheep: 97

Monivae (near Hamilton)

The fire started at 3.39pm. Suspected cause of the fire was due to clashing power conductors on a private line.

  • Area burnt: 3,818 hectares
  • Houses: 3
  • Other buildings: numerous
  • Cattle / Sheep: 1,27


The fire started at 4.30pm. Suspected cause of the fire is a high voltage power line that snapped at the base and fell to the ground.

  • People: 1
  • Area burnt: 200 hectares
  • Houses: 1
  • Other buildings: 9


The fire started at 7.20pm.

  • Area burnt: 14,00 hectares
  • Houses: 27 (including 14 holiday homes)
  • Other buildings: 30


The fire started at 7.28pm.

  • People: 6
  • Area burnt: 1,800 hectares
  • Houses and other buildings: 307


Additional Information about Ash Wednesday

  • Severe rainfall deficiencies during 1982 produced drought conditions throughout Victoria during 1983
  • The ten months between April 1982 and January 1983 were at that time the driest period on record
  • Mid morning was hot and a dry northerly airflow from South Australia was strengthen rapidly over Victoria
  • In the afternoon a frontal system continued to intensify and ahead of the firefront the hot dry airflow continued to strengthen and become more turbulent, producing gale force winds, high temperatures, low humidity and extensive areas of raised dust and smoke
  • During February 1983, the weather was extremely hot. Temperatures were particularly hot on February 1, 8 and 16 when readings were in excess of 40 degrees
  • During the 1982/1983 fire season, 22 total fire ban days were declared
  • CFA attended nearly 3,200 fires during that fire danger period.



Page last updated:  Monday, 13 February 2023 10:47:06 PM