71 people killed in Victorian ‘Black Friday’ bushfires

Prior to the inferno that roared through Victoria in 1939, much of southern Victoria struggled through its driest July to December period on record in 1938, despite it not being an El Niño year. An unprecedented heat-wave also built from early January and northerly winds tracking ahead of an approaching front produced record temperatures across the region. These searing temperatures saw Adelaide hit 46.1°C on January 12, Melbourne soaring to 45.6°C on January 13 and Sydney reaching 45.3°C by January 14. When bushfires sparked up, these perilous conditions combined to create a firestorm that killed 71 people, destroyed 1,300 homes and burned two million hectares of forest.