One Miena woman who stayed behind to help this season’s firefighting efforts also lived through the 1967 Black Tuesday fires as a child.
It was the anniversary of the ’60s fires last week, on February 7, but the memory is still fresh for Toni Glowacki.
“I was only little,” she said.
“I remember my dad, we had a purple-and-white little Hillman Hunter, and he had to come from Hobart. When he got back, nobody recognised the car because there was no paint left.
“This time was probably just as bad at the ’67 bushfires, but because now there’s helicopters, communications, we didn’t lose as many houses – or people.”
This year, up to 700 personnel have been working on the fires each day, including about 200 emergency service workers from interstate and New Zealand.
In the skies, 38 aircraft have been deployed to waterbomb the fires. Some, on loan from NSW, use infrared technology that helps them identify heat spots not yet visible to the naked eye.
In the Central Highlands, buildings were washed with fire-retardant foam to prevent them from catching, and in the South, historic huts were wrapped in fireproof material. Bulldozers have been used to cut fire breaks, and statewide a new form of sprinkler system was used to shower land adjacent to property and valuable World Heritage treasures.
All this at a cost of more than $10 million since the fires began, on December 28.
But in 1967, they had none of that. And 64 lives were lost, along with 1400 buildings.
“We only had phone lines, back then, and they were all above ground – it was only after that they moved them underground,” Ms Glowacki said. “So if they went out, we couldn’t contact each other. Nobody knew what was going on.”
Despite losing over 200,000 hectares of land, this year, the fires did not claim any lives. In the Central Highlands, only one shack was razed. And as well as the hardworking volunteers, Ms Glowacki credits the high-tech, high-powered aircraft for saving her town of Miena.
That isn’t to say this year’s fires have been easy.
“At one stage there, it was doubling its size, every day,” she said.
“I saw a firefighter that was so traumatised, he couldn’t even speak. And that person had been in the fire brigade for 12 years.
“But I haven’t met one grumpy firefighter, or SES person.”