40th Anniversary of Ash Wednesday

13 February, 2023

Reflecting on the 40th Anniversary of the Ash Wednesday fires, at the staging point, Akoona Park, Beaconsfield, my truck was stopped and told to stand aside by the District Group Officer until the wind change passed. The two trucks in front of mine – the Panton Hills and Narre Warren trucks - went onto the ridge to protect Upper Beaconsfield. All crew perished in the ensuing inferno. Back at the Pakenham station, my father-in-law, Captain NN Webster, took the mayday call. He was never the same. None of us were. This I know of that time: When the blood of the victims, the ash of the forest, and the sweat of those facing the foe. When drowned in our tears, new life did spring forth. But until the day came, in a new daw, when the sun would rise again over the southern hills of the great dividing range to a clear smokeless sky, we had work to do, men, women and little children to care for, fires to suppress and communities to rebuild. But most of all Mr Speaker, most of all, we had a lot of grieving to do – a lot of grieving to do and grieve we did. Arm in arm. Hand in Hand. Tear drop by blood-filled tear drop. Here’s to you fireman Sam and all who travelled with you.

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Russell Broadbent MP
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