[During the aptly named Ash Wednesday fires 2,080 sq. km (513,979 acres) in South Australia and 2,100 sq. km (518,921 acres) in Victoria burned in a single day, with 5,196 sq. km (1,284,000 acres) in all burnt throughout the 1982/83 season; Victoria had 47 deaths, with 28 in South Australia, and 2676 injuries reported in total.]
1279 - Portugal's King Afonso III died; he was succeeded by his son Denis.
1742 - Spencer Compton, Earl of Wilmington, became British Prime Minister.
1804 - Stephen Decatur, Jr. led a successful raid from the ketch Intrepid in Tripoli harbor to burn the pirate-held frigate USS Philadelphia during the First Barbary War.
1899 - France's President Félix Faure died of a fit of apoplexy following an assignation with his mistress Marguerite Steinheil.
1918 - The Council of Lithuania unanimously adopted the Act of Independence, declaring Lithuania an independent state.
1923 - Howard Carter unsealed the burial chamber within the tomb of Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun.
1934 - The Commission of Government was sworn in as form of direct rule for the Dominion of Newfoundland; the Commission governed until March 1949, when Newfoundland 'voted' to join the Canadian Confederation.
1936 - Democratic elections brought a leftist coalition called Popular Front to power in Spain, under the leadership of Manuel Azaña; a right-wing coup staged by Francisco Franco the following July not only unseated them but instigated the Spanish Civil War.
1945 - American forces landed on the Philippine island of Corregidor - at the entrance of Manila Bay - with the intent of recapturing it from the Japanese.
1957 - The so-called Toddlers' Truce - a controversial television closedown between 6 and 7 PM - was abolished in the United Kingdom.
1959 - Fidel Castro was sworn in as Prime Minister of Cuba following the overthrow of dictator Fulgencio Batista on January 1st.
1968 - In Haleyville, Alabama, the first 9-1-1 emergency telephone system went into service.
1983 - The Ash Wednesday bushfires in Victoria and South Australia claimed the lives of 75 people; they remained the worst wildfires in Australian history until those of 2009.
1985 - The terrorist organization Hezbollah was founded.
1986 - The Soviet ocean liner Mikhail Lermontov ran aground and then sank off New Zealand's Marlborough Sounds, resulting in the death of one crew member; resting at a depth of only 37 metres, the ship is now a popular reef for scuba divers.
1987 - The trial of John Demjanjuk, accused of being a Nazi guard dubbed 'Ivan the Terrible' in Treblinka extermination camp, started in Jerusalem.
1991 - Enrique Bermúdez, leader of the Nicaraguan Contras, was assassinated in Managua by person or persons unknown.
1993 - Australia's first woman Premier, Western Australia's Carmen Lawrence, was voted out of office; she was succeeded by Richard Court.
2005 - The Kyoto Protocol came into force, following its ratification by Russia.
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