2.8 History of Emergencies

History shows that the Shire is prone to fires both in the grasslands in the north and the forested areas throughout the south. From early in the century the Shire has suffered significant losses of life, property and livestock in the significant fires of 1919, 1939, 1944, 1977 and the Ash Wednesday Fire of 1983.

Bass Strait, which forms the southern boundary of the Shire, has a history of maritime disasters dating back to the settlement of Victoria. With improvements in maritime technology and navigation, the risk of shipwreck has somewhat diminished although the potential for emergencies including oil spills at sea is ever present.

The extensive road network within the Shire includes the Hamilton Highway, Princes Highway and Great Ocean Road and many other roads that have increasing amount of tourist traffic. The risk of road accidents is ever present and occurs regularly.

2.8.1 Major Fires in Colac Otway Shire

Figure 14 -Major Fire History for Colac Otway Shire

Date Event
6 February 1851 Black Thursday: fires covered a quarter of Victoria, including country between Geelong and Ballarat.
4-5 January 1886 Major fires in the Otway Ranges, Colac and Heytesbury regions.
1914 Major fires in the Otway Ranges, Beech Forest and areas south of Colac.
1 February 1 March 1919 Major fires in the Otway Ranges: three fatalities, many homes destroyed and large areas of forest burnt.
24 November 1919 Fires destroy 120,000 ha in the Otway Ranges and Grampians.
January-February 1932 Widespread fires including Beech Forest, Cape Otway & Benwerrin
13 January 1939 Black Friday: major fires recorded in the Otway Ranges and many other parts of Victoria.
14 January 14 February 1944 Major fires across Western District: 15-20 fatalities.
16 January 1962 Fires in Otway Ranges: 2,024 ha. destroyed.
21 February 1965 Fires in Otway Ranges: 12,000 ha. destroyed.
23 November 1966 Fires in the Otway Ranges, Modewarre, Wurdale and Anglesea -15,000 ha. destroyed.
11 Jan 1968 Fire in South Colac - 810 ha. destroyed.
6 Feb 1968 Fire on north side of Lorne: 1215 ha. destroyed.
12 February 1977 Grass fires in Cressy destroy 42,000 ha. Three fatalities recorded, 10 homes lost and other buildings destroyed. Grass fires in Werneth destroyed the State School, tennis centre and a large number of outbuildings. Beeac fire destroyed 1500 ha.
16 February 1983 Ash Wednesday: Major fires originating at Deans Marsh result in 3 fatalities, the loss of approximately 41000 ha (mainly forest) and the destruction of 729 dwellings.
2 February 2001 Wingeel Plains Fires destroyed 2000 ha.
15 September 2002 Chapple Vale fire destroyed 786 ha.

Source: Colac Otway Fire Management Plan Version 9

Figure 15 - Map Showing Bushfire History for Colac Otway Shire (click on map to open within interactive portal)

Source: FIRE_HISTORY Department of Environment and Primary Industries 27/12/2013

Figure 16 - Map Showing Earthquake History for Colac Otway Shire (click on map to open within interactive portal)

Source: Earthquake History Geoscience Australia 09/01/2013

2.7 Maps