February 7th Marks Anniversary of Black Saturday Tragedy

February 7, 2009 is such a dark date in the minds of Australians they call it Black Saturday. A series of 400 individual brush fires raged across the state of Victoria. Extreme record-breaking temperatures, drought conditions set the stage, followed by winds topping 78 miles per hour fueled the fires. The wildfires destroyed everything in their path, killing 173 people and injuring 414; they seemed unstoppable. It was hell on earth.

Black Saturday Gallery

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July 6, 2015, California and the State of Victoria, Australia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will help make both states safer through the sharing of expertise, technical knowledge, training and best practices in wildland fire and flood management. Cal OES employees along with dignitaries, representatives from the California legislature and members of the media filled the State Operations Center to witness the signing ceremony.

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Cal OES Director Mark Ghilarducci, Victorian Minister for Emergency Services Jane Garrett and Victoria’s Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley signed the historic MOU between the two states, recognizing the value of international partnerships in emergency management.

“This agreement breaks new ground for our state and its ability to be more resilient before, during and after any disaster,” said Director Ghilarducci. “The similarities between California and Victoria’s climates and hazards create a mutually beneficial learning opportunity for our communities and governments.”

The MOU addresses some of those challenges by providing a broad framework for cooperation and support between the two states, and focuses on common hazards such as wildfire and flood. The agreement encourages joint initiatives that support efficient, sustainable emergency management systems, which will improve services to assist individuals, families, communities and businesses impacted by disaster. The two states will share best practices, expertise and technical assistance to improve capacity in all areas of emergency management and disaster response.

The signing in Sacramento is part of a broader visit to the United States by the Minister for Emergency Services to look at the latest technologies, capability and systems that will help Victoria to achieve its shared goal to build safer and more resilient communities.

“Given California is currently experiencing drought conditions, there is much we can learn while we are here. But in the longer term, this agreement focuses on fostering joint development of initiatives that support and promote improved service delivery to the community and improved efficiency and capability to manage major emergencies.”

Photo Credit: blacksaturday.com

Shawn Boyd

Shawn Boyd joined Cal OES as a public information officer in 2014 after a 20-year career in television news as a reporter, anchor and executive producer. He's a Cal State Sacramento alum and former US Navy yeoman and Air Force brat.

One thought on “February 7th Marks Anniversary of Black Saturday Tragedy

  • February 7, 2017 at 9:56 am

    I think this is exactly the type of broad thinking and long range planning that will benefit emergency response efficiency in our State. Ghilarducci is to be congratulated. Step Two: specialized planning – for example: evacuation and medical planning for special needs populations. I’d like to see that included because this group is a significant portion of the populace and they burn up disproportionate resources in an emergency through no fault of their own.


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