When did the fires start?
Australia was ravaged by the worst wildfires seen in decades. The wildfires have brought historic levels of destruction with large swathes of the country devastated since the fire season began in late July 2019.
Where are the fires?
Unfortunately, the fires have hit every Australian state and territory this season. The southeast is the most severely affected with the fires being most concentrated along Australia’s southeast coast, in the states of New South Wales and Victoria. The fires didn’t discriminate as it tore through bush land, wooded areas, Australia’s largest cities, and national parks. Thick plumes of smoke covered areas like Sydney and Melbourne, with smoke so bad, air quality measured 11 times the hazardous level
What is causing the fires?
Every year Australia experiences a fire season during the summer months due to the hot, dry weather making it easy for the fires to start and spread. The eucalyptus forests in Australia have a unique relationship with fire. Weirdly enough, the trees depend on the fire to release and spread their seeds.
This year, the fires started in a few different ways. Normal climate conditions played a major factor, but lightning strikes also help to start many of the fires. Humans are also to blame as the NSW police have charged 24 people for deliberately starting bushfires according to a police statement.
Strong winds have also made the fires and smoke spread more rapidly. Many scientists believe the frequency and intensity of these wildfires corelate with their predictions related to global warming.
How many people have died?
At least 27 people have died, 19 reported in New South Wales and several other fatalities in both Victoria and South Australia, four of which were firefighters. Tens of thousands of people along the country’s southeastern coast have evacuated with the fires leaving more than 2,000 homes destroyed.
How is this affecting wildlife? How many animals have died?
Over 1/3 of the koala population is believed to have perished, with fear that other species may have been wiped out completely. This isn’t just an Australian problem either, the fires are creating havoc that may reach far beyond political borderlines. Air and water quality is negatively impacted by the ash and smoke. Fish are turning up dead, reefs are dying off, and glaciers are turning brown from smoke. Meteorologists are saying that the fires may have major impacts on other parts of the world
The most recent update
Recently rains have swept through New South Wales (NSW) and put out 20 of nearly 60 fires in the state. Citizens are happily accepting the rain as a means to a firey end, but now authorities have warned of flash flooding in various cities along the coast. Strangely enough, after experiencing some of the worst heat waves on record, the affected areas are now receiving the most rain recorded in over a year.
Scientist call this phenomenon “compound extremes” where one climate disaster intensifies that of the next. Tourism is nearly non existent with many expecting agricultural output and property values to suffer.