Half a century since worst Tasmanian fires

It's been almost 50 years since Tasmania's worst bushfires which killed 62 people and injured more than 900 on a day that became known as 'Black Tuesday'.

Fifty years after 'Black Tuesday', farmer Ian Young still wears the scars of Tasmania's worst bushfire disaster.

On February 7, 1967 then 24-year-old Mr Young was one of more than 900 people injured as blazes ravaged Hobart and surrounds, leaving 62 people dead.

Living on Bruny Island, south of the capital, the fair-haired and fit man jumped on a tractor to plough tracts through his family's farmland in the hope of backburning one of 110 blazes that threatened the state.

"The next thing there was a wall of flame right on top of me ... it could have been doing 100km/h," Mr Young told AAP.

On that pitch-black summer afternoon as temperatures reached 39C, Mr Young suffered burns to 27 per cent of his body, including his hands, arms and face.

"The fact I stayed on the tractor, those 20-foot flames passed over me and I was protected a bit by being in the centre of the tractor," he said.

After driving for another "mile or so to park the tractor somewhere safe" Mr Young then walked home.

"That's when the pain started," he said.

"They put me in a car and took me around to the ferry (terminal) and that's where a lady who used to be a nurse during the war ... she put me in the water and that was like waving a magic wand over me."

It was hours before Mr Young reached the Royal Hobart Hospital where an entire floor had been cleared to set-up a makeshift intensive-care ward.

That would be his home for the next five weeks.

"(The fire) was so hot it took the face out of my watch," Mr Young said.

"All my fingernails died.

"You can still see on me where the burning was but it is amazing how the body heals."

But it was a slow recovery.

"It took a while to get my health back on track.

"There was no counselling in those days, no help that way. My philosophy was: get on with it.

"And over time the scars have healed. You just get on with it, there's nothing else to do."

North of Hobart the township of Colebrook was almost completely destroyed by fire.

Betty Burke was a high school student at the time and remembers riding on the bus watching farmers shoot burned sheep.

"Going through the hills it was burnt black. The sheep still wandering around burned, kangaroos burned, all the cattle were turned up, burned badly," she said.

"It was horrific. For days we had the smell of burnt animals throughout the town.

"Our town really never ever recovered from this terrible day."

Mr Young and Ms Burke have both told their stories as part of a commemorative 'storymap', compiled by Tasmania Fire Service's Lesley King to mark the 50th anniversary.

"The stories are always very powerful because people tell them like it was yesterday," Ms King said.

"It's something that was quite a devastating and made quite an impact on peoples' lives and they're still feeling that impact 50 years on."

Commemorative services will be held on Tuesday to mark the 50th anniversary of Black Tuesday, with the main event scheduled at the township of Snug and including a fire truck convoy.

Source AAP

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