As the fire siren rang throughout Cockatoo, then-fire brigade captain Graham Simpson felt a pang in the pit of his stomach.
The sky was already filled with ash and smoke and much of Victoria, and South Australia, was on fire.
Once he and his crew extinguished a small fire, they turned around and saw the hills behind them burning bright with flames.
Speaking ahead of Sunday's Ash Wednesday memorial, Mr Simpson proudly stood in front of the town's Bushfire Education Centre.
Now the chair of the centre's management committee, Mr Simpson has a direct link to the centre.
The former kindergarten is where more than 200 Cockatoo residents sought refuge from the blaze, including his own wife and two children.
It was 40 years ago, but Mr Simpson thinks about it every day.
"The destruction of lives, the loss of fellow firefighters - I think about it all," Mr Simpson told AAP on Tuesday.
"It is important to mark these anniversaries. This is a very important part of Victoria's history and the fact that we have this building that people can come and reflect what happened is great.
"The war stories I've heard from people that have walked through those doors ... it's important that we do remember because it can happen again."
He talks about his experience during Ash Wednesday to anyone who comes to the centre as well as to organised group of schoolchildren.
To have someone who was actually at the fire 40 years ago and tell them about it today blows their minds, Mr Simpson said with a laugh.
"To be able to stand here and show people what it looks like now, what it looked like before and what it looked like after the fires came through is special - you couldn't do that in a museum in the city," he said.
He takes a moment to look around and take in his tree-lined surroundings, including a tree planted by King Charles, then a prince, and Princess Diana in the aftermath of the fires.
Speaking on the the 14th anniversary of Black Saturday, Mr Simpson said the Country Fire Authority had gone through many changes since the Ash Wednesday and Black Saturday bushfires, from protective gear, communications equipment and trauma support.
So far, he's holding up emotionally, but only time will tell how he feels on Sunday.
Sunday's service will be held at the Ash Wednesday Bushfire Education Centre at 2pm.
THE ASH WEDNESDAY BUSHFIRES - FEBRUARY 16, 1983:
* 47 people killed
* 2800 homes destroyed
* 210,000 hectares burnt
* Total damage bill estimated at more than $200 million
* More than 100 fires started that day, most sparked by arson or powerlines clashing in the high winds
* More than 16,000 firefighters, 1000 police and 500 army personnel battled the fires
* 28 people killed
* 383 homes destroyed
* 208,000 hectares burnt
* Total damage bill estimated at more than $200 million.
Australian Associated Press
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