The weather in early February 1851 had been uncommonly hot,with the temperature regularly around the mid 40°s.
On Thursday 6th February, it is recorded that a pair of bullock drivers in the Plenty Ranges neglected a camp fire.
The resulting bushfire swept through a quarter of Victoria, destroying five million hectares, killing over one million livestock, and destroying or damaging 1,300 buildings. Twelve people lost their lives.
In what is now the Darebin area the fire made its way down the courses of the Merri Creek, Darebin Creek and the Plenty River.
Preston was particularly hard hit with over 50% of the suburb destroyed. Luckily Preston was sparsely populated at the time and there were no fatalities, but property damage was heavy.
The bushfire lasted a total of four days and in its wake the damage affected over 10,300 people, a very significant portion of the population at the time.
John Chandler, an early Preston resident noted that, before the bushfire Preston and Northcote had abundant wildlife but afterwards it became very rare to see any of the local fauna or flora.
The event became known as Black Thursday and there are many personal accounts of the fires raging through Victoria written in newspapers at the time and for many years afterwards.
Here are some of these articles and more about the devastation suffered in February 1851.
Chandler, John (1990). Forty years in the wilderness. Victoria: Haven Books.
Watson, Kelly (1998). Recollections of the Darebin Creek Valley. Alphington: Darebin Creek Co-ordinating Committee.