Responders reflect on fire and local reaction

February 16, 2023 BY

Anglesea Fire Station hosted a private service for emergency services and Ash Wednesday veterans yesterday morning. Photo: SUPPLIED

EMERGENCY services personnel gathered at Anglesea Fire Station yesterday morning for a private acknowledgement of the devastating Ash Wednesday bushfires.

Veterans of the February 1983 campaign, current emergency services personnel and local civic leaders paused to reflect on the historic blaze to mark its 40-year anniversary.

The 10am service offered first responders quiet moments to contemplate ahead of the public events, including a Surf Coast Shire-run service at Aireys Inlet and a Anglesea and District Historical Society exhibition in the afternoon.

Aireys Inlet Country Fire Authority (CFA) brigade member Ross Girvan, who was part of the local response to Ash Wednesday fires four decades ago, said he helped organise the event following an approach from Surf Coast Shire Council in the lead-up to yesterday’s anniversary.

Aireys Inlet CFA member Ross Girvan.


“We’ve got the shire mayor speaking along with a number of agencies and key people,” Mr Girvan said ahead of yesterday’s event.

“It’s acknowledging how people are served in all agencies and also people that are around and involved in emergency services along the Surf Coast today.

“Surf Coast Shire councillors approached me. They just wanted to acknowledge people that served during Ash Wednesday and I thought it would be nice to recognise all our people.”

Mr Girvan said about “three or four” of the local frontline firefighters from Ash Wednesday remained active at Aireys Inlet as 40 years passed since the blaze.

“That would be similar to most of the coastal towns.”

He said the period of reflection yesterday morning intended to have a neutral tone so that those involved in the tragedy could reflect on it as they wished.

“I think everyone’s different, so everyone’s got their own memory of what their own experience was.

“Some people would soon as not talk about it. Others are happy to talk about it when asked.

“And generally from myself, it’s just that was then, and it’s about moving forward.”

Days after the fire on Boundary Road behind Fairhaven. Photos: RITCHIE FAMILY COLLECTION


Mr Girvan said “moving forward” had remained his mantra in the aftermath of Ash Wednesday, as his role in the community – both as a firefighter and working for the local water authority – meant there wasn’t much time to dwell on its events.

“At the time was it was certainly pretty frightening. There’s no question about that,” he said.

“I suppose I didn’t really get much opportunity to think about it… I had to go back to work.”

Surf Coast Times – Free local news in your inbox

Breaking news, community, lifestyle, real estate, and sport.