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1967 Bush Fires

Devastation on Summerleas Rd, Fern Tree, after the Black Tuesday bushfire disaster of February 7, 1967. Picture: DON STEPHENS

Feb 7th, 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Bushfires that ravaged all of Tasmania in one terrible day. At one point it was estimated that two thirds of the entire state of Tasmania was on fire.

On Island Time Tours’ Huon Tour where we follow the “Princess Mary route” via Taroona, the suburb where Mary grew up just a block from me, I point out the spot just as you enter Taroona, where my school bus was turned back because there was so much fire in the bush behind this Hobart suburb. I remember it was the first day of first grade and we had to go back to the city to wait out the fire until evening.

Sixty two people lost their lives in one day, and over 1200 homes and 1700 other buildings were destroyed. Millions of dollars of damage was done to homes, farms, schools, bridges and other infrastructure. It was estimated that 62,000 farm animals died. And, of course, unknowable amounts of native animals died or were affected by this devastation of their habitat.

After the fires were over a group of women from the Canine Defense League, organised themselves to collect food from various outlets around Hobart and take it to several dumping stations on Mt Wellington.They dumped food there three times a week and every time they came back every bit of it was gone.But gradually, as the bush grew back and the animals started to find their own food there would start to be food leftover, until, several months later they knew they were no longer needed to keep those starving animals alive.

If you are driving up kunanyi/Mt Wellington, you will see a display at the Springs that tells you about the women from the Canine Defense League who organised this effort. If you look at the photo that accompanies the story, you will see the lady above, Jasmine Lawrence, my mother – she is 95 years old and remembers, on Feb. 7th 1967, fighting off the fire in the raspberry patch at our suburban home.

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