- Maya Dias, AIT
Bushfires Devastate Australia
Record-breaking temperatures and months of drought have helped the Australian fires burn an estimated 10 million hectares (100,000 sq km) of land since July 1. In recent months, celebrities and ordinary people alike have teamed up to tackle the wide ranging effects of the fires. Many attempts are targeted at protecting Australia's diverse wildlife, while others focus on the effect the fires have on rising global temperatures. Regardless, the devastating results of the fires require attention and immediate action.
In 2019, Australia experienced its driest spring ever, which prompted the tremendous bushfires shortly afterward. On Nov. 11, 2019, a state of emergency was declared in Queensland and New South Wales both located on the eastern coast of Australia. Then in December 2019, American firefighters were deployed to combat the fires as they rapidly grew in size.
Throughout December and the following months, thousands of residents were told to evacuate due to the increasingly dangerous fires. Major roads closed and the sky developed a reddish hue. By the end of 2019, the death toll had reached 16 people. Evacuation centers throughout the nation opened out of necessity while homes were left ablaze. On Jan. 2, a state of emergency was declared in Victoria. Shortly after, the death toll rose to 23. While decreasing winds and temperatures are beginning to ease conditions, the fires are expected to continue for weeks to come.
While the fires themselves begin to wind down, their effects will take years to overcome. As a whole, Australia lost nearly half a billion animals throughout the course of the fires. Australia’s diverse wildlife is one of its most treasured attributes, and the loss of millions of mammals, reptiles and birds leaves it in a dire situation. 30 percent of Koalas in New South Wales have tragically died while many more remain injured or unwell.
To combat over 800 fires throughout the country, a total of 20,000 firefighters have been deployed. Officials report that over 12.35 million acres have been burned, which is approximately 80 times more land than the total area burned in the California wildfires. At least 24 people have been killed and many others left injured. The fires have destroyed more than 2,000 homes and continue to leave lasting impressions on Australia and its citizens. Many described struggling to breathe amid the choking smoke and being overcome with sadness and anger as they watched their communities and forests burn and their country’s renowned wildlife harmed. One woman who was caught in bushfires in New South Wales described how she learned that her 13 pet greyhounds burned to death as the fire front ripped through her property.
Celebrities including (but not limited to) Kylie Jenner, Chris Hemsworth, Nicole Kidman and Shawn Mendes have all made charitable donations toward combating the fires. Many donations are targeted at preserving Australia’s wildlife as more and more animals become compromised. Large businesses have also pledged large sums of money toward relief for those affected. Many others have donated to charities like the Red Cross and the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, while others keep victims in their thoughts and prayers. While the greenery and magic of Australia preceding the fires will be difficult to reincarnate, these donations and dedicated volunteers bring us closer to preserving the value of Australia and its citizens and its wildlife.
Charitable donations can be made at https://fundraise.redcross.org.au/drr
“Australia Fires: What's Being Done to Fight the Flames?” BBC News, BBC, 23 Jan. 2020, www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-51008051.
“Firefighter Dies as Australia Plans to Adapt to Wildfires.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 13 Jan. 2020, www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2020/01/11/australia-wildfires-firefighter-killed-death-toll-least-27/4445757002/.
Glanville, Brigid. “Eyewitness Describes Bushfire Nightmare.” ABC News, 18 Dec. 2009, www.abc.net.au/news/2009-12-18/eyewitness-describes-bushfire-nightmare/1183770.
Hadden, Joey. “Australia's Bushfires Are Ravaging the Country. Here's How It All Happened.” Insider, Insider, 5 Feb. 2020, www.insider.com/when-how-australia-bushfires-started-in-2019-2020-1.