The Black Saturday fires started on 7 February 2009. Approximately 400 fires were recorded across Victoria, affecting 78 communities. A total of 173 people died in the fires, and 2 029 houses were lost.
A number of communities suffered extensive loss of life and property damage as a result of major fires, including:
Upper Ferntree Gully
More than 19,000 CFA (Country Fire Authority) personnel were deployed in battling the fires, in incident control or working in other roles. Officers from the Victorian Department of Sustainable Communities were also involved.
As of February 2009, $30 million was distributed through Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payments: $10,000 grants to bereaved families, $7500 to the seriously injured and $5000 grants to those who lost their homes.
A Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund was established in partnership between the Victorian and Commonwealth governments and the Australian Red Cross. The Appeal closed on 17 April 2009 and raised $379 million.
The Insurance Council of Australia estimated the cost of damages in 2009 at $1070 million with a 2011 normalised cost of $1266 million.
The 2009 Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission was established on 16 February 2009 to investigate the causes of and responses to the bushfires. The final report and its recommendations were published in July 2010.
In the two weeks preceding Black Saturday, Victoria experienced a severe heatwave. Melbourne had temperatures in excess of 43 °C for three consecutive days. Combined with the effects of the long term drought, extreme fire risk conditions were created when Melbourne reached 46 °C on 7 February. The wind gusts of more than 100 km per hour changed direction late in the day, causing unpredictable fire paths.