Wildfires cause destruction in Australia

In late December 2019, a series of bush fires began in Australia. As of writing this, over 25 million acres have been burned around Australia due to recording break heat and droughts, alleged arson, and lightning strikes.

many animals cannot flee these big fires… particularly because Australia has bulldozed half of our forests… that’s why you find lots of animals, including koalas wandering into people’s backyards… looking for some habitat to survive in”

— Ecologist Stuart Blanch

While bushfires are not unheard of in Australia during their summers, like with the 2009 Black Saturday fires that killed 173 people in Victoria, but the numbers showcased in the 2019-2020 bush fires are unheard of. Three thousand homes have been destroyed and 28 people have been killed due to the fires, but the size of the fires is what is catching a lot of attention. In 2019, the Amazon Rainforest Fires, burned 17 million acres, the California fires in 2019 burned 247,000 acres, and the 2018 fires burned a million acres. All those combined, don’t match the fire in Australia. Most fires are taking place on the coastlines of Australia, with New South Wales and Victoria being the most affected.

Many people have lost their lives and homes to fires, but it is nature and animals taking the biggest toll. There are videos and videos of animals running for safety or being horribly burnt due to the fire. One billion animals have thought to have died in these fires, with numbers only looking worse. Ecologist Stuart Blanch, when discussing the impacts the fire has had on animals takes about how “many animals cannot flee these big fires….particularly because Australia has bulldozed half of our forests…that’s why you find lots of animals, including koalas wandering into people’s backyards…looking for some habitat to survive in.” Animals like koalas tend to hide in trees when fires are low to the ground, but the fires now are burning the trees that are left, leaving many animals with nowhere to turn. Some animals have been saved, but many are burned in the fire and are unable to survive.

The reason for the fires goes back to climate change. Australia is going through one of it’s worst droughts, with December being there driest on record. This drought allows for the fires to spread quickly, as moisture helps slows down and stop fires. With the drought, there is little natural prevention against the fire. Australia is also experiencing a heatwave, with December 17th being the hottest average day across Australia. These droughts and heatwaves come from climate change worsening the impact of natural disasters such as these. The same is seen with the Hurricanes in the US during the past few years. 

The bush fires, however, are being combated. 2000 firefighters alone are in New South Wales, battling the flames, with firefighters around the world coming to Austalia to help bring an end to the fires. Money is also being raised to help with recovery after the fires, including Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, donating a million dollars and Australian mining billionaire donating 48 million. Even Owen Colley, a 6-year old boy from Hingham, Massachusetts is raising money for relief by making clay koala bears.  

Though, even with all the money being raised and work being done to stop the fire, no one knows how bad its effects will be. The summer season in Australia has just begun, with temperatures going to peak in January and February. Hopefully, these fires are causing people to finally learn the lesson that wildfires from the past decade have been trying to teach, that if changes to our climate conditions aren’t made, things will only get worse.