Doug McKinnon, amateur photographer and Greensborough resident, took this photograph at Bowden Spur, during the Black Saturday Bushfires on Sunday 7th February, 2009. Doug used an unsealed service road on Bowden Spur to evacuate members of his family from Strathewen. While stopping at a vantage point, Doug took this photo of the fire behind them. It is likely that they were the last people to evacuate from Bowden Spur before the fire travelled onwards to Kinglake.

Doug offered this photograph for inclusion in the community-led Bushfire Photo Exhibition, which featured thirty-five local photographs, at the Bridges Restaurant/Nursery, Hurstbridge, held between February and March 2010. It was also published in the book 'Footsteps in the Ash' which documents St Andrews' and Strathewen's experiences during Black Saturday. This image is part of the the Victorian Bushfire Collection; and is supplemented by two interviews with Doug McKinnon and his daughter Debbie Bradshaw.

Description of Content

This colour digital photograph shows fires burning in the valley of Bowden Spur. Above the valley, a billowing smoke cloud engulfs the sky while the flames underneath highlight the shape of the ridge line. In the foreground a number of grey power poles and green foliage can be seen in direct line with the approaching fire. Doug took this photograph while evacuating his daughter Debbie Bradshaw (along with Debbie's six year old daughter Lily, and Debbie's brother Dave) from Strathewen in two cars to Kinglake Central football ground and school where they sheltered with nine others. This photograph was the beginning of a terrifying experience. The group moved from place to place as each part of the school caught alight, they were exposed to the heat and smoke, and surrounded by the 'thundering roar' of the fire and the distressing sounds of explosions, crashing cars, trees falling, and sirens. They were under direct fire attack into the early hours of Sunday.

Physical Description

Digital photograph.


The bushfires of Black Saturday, 7 February 2009, caused significant loss of life and damage to personal and community property, and state infrastructure - and became the worst bushfire disaster in Australia's history. The Kilmore East fire swept over Mount Sugarloaf on Black Saturday destroying most of the small settlements of Strathewen and Kinglake causing the largest loss of life of any community in Victoria. Despite the high death toll and widespread devastation, an astonishing number of creative projects have arisen to give comfort and help in the recovery efforts. This photograph is one of many that were used in a local photographic display and a publication which documented the many stories of loss and survival.

The image captures the critical confrontation between the fire and local residents while fleeing from or returning to their properties, highlighted by the imposing scene of a fire front following evacuees. It reveals the geographic position of the Black Saturday bushfires as well as documenting , the unpredictability and damage to infrastructure and land associated with natural disasters, such as electricity powerlines. This image highlights some of the challenges and risks facing those who had limited evacuation routes, the risks to non-resident family members assisting their kin to flee their homes, and the presence of mind to document the experience as it happens. It is an important and rare document of the photographer's personal experience as a local resident during Black Saturday.

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