Historical information

Considered in terms of both loss of property and loss of life, the Black Friday bushfires on 13 January 1939 were one of the worst disasters to have occurred in Australia and certainly the worst bushfire up to that time.
The fires burnt 2 million hectares, 69 sawmills were destroyed, 71 people died, and several towns and sawmills were entirely obliterated. Among those killed were four men from the Commission
The subsequent Royal Commission conducted by Judge Leonard Stretton has been described as one of the most significant inquiries in the history of Victorian public administration. Its recommendations led to sweeping changes.
In addition to building dams and water points, the Stretton Royal Commission recommended expanding and controlling the use of bushfire dugouts at forest sawmills.
Well-constructed dugouts had saved the lives of many sawmill workers and their families during the 1939 bushfires. But in some locations, they had proved fatal.
Dugouts became mandatory for those few sawmills that remained in the forest after the 1939 fires. Many remote logging coupes and FCV roading camps also had dugouts.
The local District Forester was required to make annual pre-season inspections of all dugouts on State forests and those within the Fire Protected Area (FPA).
Some were built privately on private land.
Most were primitive construction with a log or corrugated iron roof covered with earth. A hessian bag often hung at the entrance to keep the heat and smoke out. But they were dark and damp with snakes and other creepy crawlies often lurking inside.
By 1940-41 there were 19 new dugouts constructed by the Commission and a further 128 by forest licensees. Ten years later there were 8 new Commission dugouts and 21 new ones built by other interests. By 1960-61 the rate of new builds was declining but the Commission still managed 103 dugouts while 127 were looked after by others.
However, as the forest road network improved and gave all-weather access to modern two-wheel-drive vehicles the reliance on dugouts receded.

Physical description

Large metal sign that was positioned near forest dugouts