TANK Hill means different things to different people. For the Chambers family, it was their forbear’s campsite in July 1910 when he helped plant 3000 trees in the streets and crescents of the state town.
For the early miners of South Wonthaggi, it was the source of clean, fresh water before the Lance Creek reservoir supplied reticulated water or they could afford a tank; my grandparents and great-grandparents carted kerosene tins of water for the site to their homes. For the children of South Wonthaggi it was (and is) an adventure playground. For nearby residents, it was a potential refuge with an air raid shelter during World War II. For the Borough of Wonthaggi, it was a source of sand to be mined. It was later grazed, then planted out by volunteers and finally managed by Parks Victoria.
In 2015 it was a source of pleasure and contemplation for dogwalkers, birdwatchers, youthful adventurers, walkers. The local friends of Tank Hill, together with the Wonthaggi Urban Landcare, kept a watching brief, weeding and replanting. Wonthaggi Seedbank members collected seed there, helping to monitor flora and fauna and replanting the damp areas.
On the afternoon of December 19, in 42 degree heat, all this changed. Fire ravaged the northern half of the reserve. Smoke billowed, sirens wailed, tankers converged. Valiant locals manned garden hoses, vigilant Parks Victoria rangers tackled ember attack across the paddocks to the south, spot fires which could have developed with a raging wind to engulf Eastern Area and race across the plains to Cape Paterson and Harmers Haven. Two helicopters and a spotter plane joined the battle, the choppers scooping water from a farm dam to douse the inferno. These fire-fighting crews performed miracles, preventing the fire from jumping the east-west track and from spreading to nearby houses.