BUSHFIRES ARE PART of Australia’s history.
“The weather conditions that set the scene for prolific unmanaged fire in the landscape are the same weather conditions that make the urban environment really vulnerable,” says Justin Leonard, a CSIRO research scientist who specialises in bushfire urban design.
“Menacing bushfires that cause death and house loss aren’t universal across Australia,” Justin says. “They’re quite focused to smaller regions on the Australian continent, and that’s mainly because the severe fire weather that sets the scene for really bad fires [in urban areas]…only occurs in certain areas.”
As part of our history, bushfires get documented in the usual way. This includes using striking photographs on postcards.
Bushfires including those that effect towns are so commonplace, that we cannot always identify the fires shown in records such as postcards.
The graphic scene of fire in the western Victorian town of Portland is not easy (or perhaps possible to date). There is too little information on the card, and when we searched fires in Portland in Trove newspapers, there were too many fires in Portland to allow us to identify the date.
This postcard with its series of small black and white photographs documents the effects of a major fire. We know more about this fire. Here is a report from The Horsham Times 8 February 1910
Fire and Devastation
THE RAINBOW OUTBREAK. BLOCK OF BUILDINGS DESTROYED.
ESTIMATED DAMAGE £15,000
A disastrous fire occurred in Federal street, Rainbow, at 10.30 on Friday night (as previously reported in an’extraordinary” issued from the “Times” office), when the extensive block of buildings known as Cust’s and Dart’s was completely demolished. The conflagration was seen to break out in Cust’s drapery department, about the middle of the shop, and before the alarm could be raised the whole of the interior of the building was enveloped in flames.
A strong westerly wind was blowing, and the premises of Mr. W. Dart, which are separated by a 13-feet right-of way, became ignited. An office occupied by Mr. Dart was burnt to the ground, and the adjoining premises, owned by Mr. Dart and occupied as a dwelling and fruit and fancy goods store, also shared the same fate. The fire burnt eastwards, and the chemist’s shop, occupied by Mr F. S. Kendall, a tailor’s establishment occupied by Mr. W. E. Hill, and the Rainbow Argus office were also destroyed. The fire burnt so fiercely and rapidly that practically nothing was saved, and the articles rescued were in many cases damaged in transit.
The firemen under Capt Norris were hampered owing to there being no hose and reel. These had had been ordered but had not arrived. Dawson’s coffee-palace, which is separated from the Argus office by about 20 feet; narrowly escaped destruction.
For those readers interested in the history of printing, we add this quote about a problem for the local newspaper:
Mr. G. R. Riley, proprietor of the Argus,who lost no time in replacing his stock. He returned last night from a visit, to Melbourne, whither he went on Sunday morning in search of new type.