Lara bushfires remembered

Lara bushfires remembered

8 January 2009

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Australia — The locals of the Victorian town of Lara will never forget the fires of 1969, reports SARAH WARNE

Red, smoky and terrifying is how Brendon Dempsey describes the 1969 Lara bushfires.

Brendon was five when fire swept through the Lara township, killing 18 people, and he says he still recalls what he did that day.

“I’d gone for a drive with dad and we saw the fires in the distance,” Brendon says.

“It was a hell day. Really scary.”

Forty years on and the Lara community is gathering to commemorate the devastating effects the fire had on the tiny rural community.

“We need to acknowledge the people we lost and see how well people coped in the fire aftermath,” co-ordinator of the Lara Fire Committee Betty Davey-Walker says.

The day will include a commemorative service, the unveiling of a plaque and a presentation of pictures and videos captured at the time.

Betty says the day will not only honour the 18 people who died but will also be an opportunity to get people together to help overcome the lingering fear associated with fire threat.

“If we don’t do it now there will be no one (from the time of the fire) left,” Betty says.

“Hopefully it will be a huge day.”

Warburton will also be holding a commemorative celebration to honour those who suffered in the 1939 bushfires.

According to CFA chief Officer Russell Rees, such commemorations underscore the significant role fire plays in Australia’s history.

“The 1939 Black Friday fires represent an extremely significant point in Australian and in bushfire history,” Russell says.

“The Royal Commission that formed because of those fires resulted in the formation of the CFA.

“The Warburton commemoration is important as it reminds us that fire is part of our landscape and that we need to live with and adapt to it.”

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