Black Thursday, February 6th. 1851, as depicted by William Strutt in 1864
The Black Thursday bushfires were a devastating series of fires that swept through Victoria on February 6, 1851. They are considered the largest Australian bushfires in a populous region in recorded history, with approximately 5 million hectares, or a quarter of Victoria, being burnt. Twelve lives were lost, along with one million sheep and thousands of cattle.
The year preceding the fires was exceptionally hot and dry and this trend continued into the summer of 1851. On Black Thursday, a northerly wind set in early and the temperature in Melbourne was reported to have peaked at 47.2 degrees C (117 degrees F) at 11:00am.
“The temperature became torrid, and on the morning of the 6th of February 1851, the air which blew down from the north resembled the breath of a furnace. A fierce wind arose, gathering strength and velocity from hour to hour…
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