On 30 December 2019, a fire that was started by lightning jumped the border from New South Wales to Victoria near the township of Walwa. In less than 24 hours the blaze approached the township of Cudgewa, raging out of control and with menacing speed. Three local police had mere minutes to evacuate residents who found themselves unexpectedly in the fire’s path.
The devastation of the bushfires in East Gippsland and the northeast made the summer of 2019/2020 a historic emergency response challenge for Victoria Police. This was the first time the Victorian Government declared a state of disaster, giving authorities powers and resources to compel people to evacuate from at-risk areas.
Thousands of police – from Eastern Region and other areas across the state – worked long and hard hours for weeks.
Over the course of these fires:
- 2,070 extra police were deployed into Eastern Region between 2–23 January.
- 6,953 additional shifts were worked by the police deployed into Eastern Region between 2–23 January.
- There were five fire-related deaths.
- 2,092 people were evacuated.
- 29,863 people registered with Red Cross’s Register.Find.Unite service.
- 405 homes were destroyed.
- 653 non-residential buildings were destroyed.
- There were 5,827 livestock deaths.
In honour of all the communities and our partnering emergency services, we encourage you to read the stories of help, loss and the rebuilding of Victoria.
Reviewed 26 August 2021