Australia On Fire

Australian wild fires are burning millions of acres, and the peak of its fire season is still yet to come.

A house burning in Lake Conjola, New South Wales, on New Year’s Eve.

Matthew Abbott for The New York Times

A house burning in Lake Conjola, New South Wales, on New Year’s Eve.

Kathy Ryan, Writer

Australia is on fire and there seems to be nothing anyone can do about it.

Nearly 18 million acres of land are burning and have been for months. Starting in late October 2019 when lightning struck Gospers Mountain in New South Wales, the fires escalated and are still burning to this day. About 16 million acres have been burned, killing almost thirty people, millions of animals, and causing thousands of people to evacuate their homes. 

One lightning strike caused one fire to spread into more than two hundred fires within the states of New South Wales and Victoria. They have become so severe that Australian prime minister Scott Morrison sent the HMAS Adelaide, Australia’s largest warship, to help evacuate people on the Victorian coast. He also approved $20 million dollars in funding toward four more water-bombing aircraft. Before these actions, Australians were growing very angry at the lack of action Morrison was taking toward these fires.

Image: MyFireWatch
Current fires burning in Australia as of Christmas morning.

While the Australian government felt that they were well-prepared for the fire season, Morrison stated that “governments, fire crews, and communities needed to be realistic and understand that some blazes would not be able to be stopped.” Morrison and his government have been highly criticized recently for their climate change policies, proclaimed as “unambitious” and “ineffective”. 

While many of the fires are starting to become contained, there are still many of them burning, and some still out of control. While Australia suffers from brush fires yearly in its summer months, these seem different as they are happening in highly populated areas of the country. 

Ross Bradstock, the director of the Center for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfires at the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, says “What we’re seeing in Australia, in a completely different environment, are fires that are approaching or even exceeding the magnitude of things that we only saw in the most remote forested regions in the world. We’re looking at a globally significant fire season in Australia.”

Image via “How climate change influenced Australia’s unprecedented fires” yaleclimateconnections.org

While there have been worse fires in Australia, like the Black Saturday Fires of February 2009, these ones are not over yet and the loss the country is experiencing is still staggering. Bradstock also says that Australia “would be extremely foolish, given all the evidence and the magnitude of this event, to just laugh it off as a one-off phenomenon. I think we have to get ready to deal with a season like this again in the not-too-distant future.”

There are not many ways to prepare for such devastating events like this, however Bradstock says Australia does need to be aware that this is not the last major fire that will come through the country, and preparing oneself is crucial for situations like this.