Nearly all of Australia has been consumed with the worst wildfires the nation has seen in decades. The blazes have torn through bushland, woodland, in addition to Australia’s largest cities, such as Melbourne and Sydney. The impact of the fires has been so great that the air quality in Sydney measured 11 times that of the standard hazardous level. The fires have burned all throughout the nation; 17.9 million acres have been destroyed in total. At the very least, 30 people have been killed by the blazing fires, leaving 3,000 homes in ruins. The state of New South Wales has been especially impacted by the fires, with more than 12.1 million acres burned.
The wildlife of Australia has been even more impacted by the persisting wildfires, killing millions of animals and affecting about half a billion in NSW alone. A third of the koalas of NSW have been killed in the fires and various species of birds and frogs that are living in niche environments are under the threat of extinction.
The extremely hot and dry weather around the nation allows for the damaging blazes to spread easily. The fires have started mostly due to dry lightening strikes in the drought-affected forests all throughout Australia. Humans have also had an impact on the blazing fires; 24 individuals have been charged for deliberately starting fires.
Though the intensity of the fires has dramatically increased due to persistent heat and drought, experts have pinpointed climate change as a factor of the natural disaster. The unusually severe conditions of this years fire have a clear correlation to the sweltering heat, which has hit above 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The strong winds have also allowed the flames and smoke to spread more rapidly, leading to numerous fatalities. Experts say that the extreme change in climate has had a major impact on natural disasters, fires included.
Kevin Rudd, an Australian politician, states,
For Australians, climate change is no longer a distant threat. Our rivers are dying, bush fires are more ferocious and more frequent and our natural wonders - the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu, our rainforests - are now at risk.
State and federal authorities of Australia have been working to combat the fire crisis in these past months. NSW declared a state of emergency, granting the state additional government resources. Additional support is being provided from other nations, including the United States, Canada, and New Zealand.
In spite of the work towards putting out the fires, there’s no clear end to this devastating natural disaster. Australia is only halfway through its summer season, meaning the country is months away from finding relief. It’s quite likely that these annual fires will become even worse in the coming years.