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Stories from the Hamilton Highway

9. Wildfires

Often in December on a calm day you will see some smoke ahead. A fellow with a STOP sign will halt traffic for several minutes while CFA volunteers burn a section of the roadside. By New Year many kilometers of roadside will be a black firebreak.

The highway firebreak is an ideal place to stop a running wildfire on a mild day or it may prevent one being started by passing traffic.
It also provides a refuge if motorists are caught in one.

Many local people are aware of fires which have crossed this highway in the past.

The worst was in 1944 when several fires in the western district burned 15 people, 500 houses, and half a million ha.

B140 Wildfires

These fires either crossed or were just north of the highway for the entire distance from Inverleigh to Hamilton. The townships of Cressy, Berrybank, Derrinallum, Darlington lost many houses. The Highway did not have a burned firebreak in those days.

Feb 1977 saw many fires. These burned 4 people, 116 houses and 200,000 sheep. Several fires crossed the highway at Derrinallum
and Cressy at places where the firebreak was weak.

There have been many other smaller fires on or near the highway over the years.

In the past fires have started by lightning, sparks from powerlines, faulty vehicles and machinery, etc.

If you see smoke ahead on a windy day then find some other place to go.

Author: © Chris Lang 2015


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