It was one of Australia's worst disasters. In just a few hours on Tuesday afternoon, 7 February, 1967, 64 people lost their lives and 900 were injured. Around 1,400 buildings were destroyed - homes, factories, schools, churches, halls. People lost family, their livelihoods, homes, friends, pets and possessions. Thousands of animals were killed.
50 years on, we invite you to reflect on the chaos of the disaster, its aftermath, and the beginnings of recovery, through the records of the Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office.
'On the 7th February 1967 there were at least fourty-one fires in the affected areas and most of these "ran" on the 7th February 1967. It was too late – all action should have been taken prior to that date. Fires that had been burning and which had been brought under control and were considered "safe" caused most of the major fires. It would appear no attempt [was] generally made to stop fires burning in wooded areas or hilly country until these fires [came] out into the open paddocks or cleared areas...
'The fire hazard on the 7th February 1967 was extremely high...The exceptional growth during the year, the extremely dry conditions, high temperatures and gale force winds [caused] a fire storm which was impossible to control. The fires travelled at frightening and incredible speeds. The temperature reached [40°C] the highest February reading for sixty-eight years.'
'At times smoke and air borne debris reduced visibility to practically nothing as westerly and north-westerly winds carried the fire before them through large areas of the Municipalities of Glenorchy, Hobart, Kingborough, Cygnet, Huon, Esperance, Clarence, Richmond and Sorell, resulting in a tragic loss of life; the destruction of hundreds of homes; the destruction of large rural areas...fencing, farm buildings…the destruction of thousands of head of livestock.' Police Superintendent, 1967 (AE239/1/2)
'I am perfectly convinced that no amount of machinery, equipment nor the numbers of men could have controlled the fires under the conditions prevailing on the day. I have experienced large fires…I have never seen one so out of control' Police Constable, Swansea, report dated 7 March 1967 (AE239/1/1)