Australian Wildfires

By Eleanor Trese, Daniel Neville, and Thereza Zephir
FEB. 10, 2020

The Australian wildfires have been completely frightening, disastrous, and heartbreaking for the whole continent. While the fire season started in July of 2019,  major fires have been occurring since the beginning of September 2019. At the time of this writing, about 27 million acres of land have burned across Australia.

The main cause for these fires is natural elements such as lightning strikes on dry lands, but some of the fires have been the result of people’s careless acts. The United States National Park Service website indicates that some of these acts include negligently discarding lit cigarettes, burning debris without taking precautions, and intentional acts of arson. However, even though people and natural elements have a huge part in starting these fires, climate conditions are a big factor in the magnitude of the blazes. According to Vox.com, “the climate conditions are what provides ample fuel for the fires to grow and spread.” Humans and the environment clashing with each other has resulted in some of the worst bushfires Australia has ever experienced. 

There have been 25 human deaths, and nearly a billion animal deaths, according to Jesse Yeung, reporter for CNN. Nationwide there have been about 3,000 homes damaged or destroyed. New South Wales, a state in Australia with a population of 7,544,000, has experienced the worst effects from the bushfires. According to Jenni Fink, a reporter for Newsweek, “More than 1,200 homes have been lost in New South Wales alone since January 1 because of the wildfires.” Since there has not been a substantial amount of rain, it is possible these fires will not end for months.  

For the past four weeks, firefighters from the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea have joined other dedicated volunteers from around the world to offer support to Australia during this time of need. 

The Raider Review contacted Lieutenant Eric Alexanders of the Boca Raton Fire Department. Lieutenant Andrews shared his knowledge of firefighting and described the techniques that a firefighter would likely use to try to stop wildfires. Lieutenant Andrews said that, “The three main factors in the environment that contribute to wildland fires and make it less predictable than regular house fires is humidity, wind speeds, and temperature. The biggest contributor of the three is wind because in wildland fires wind speeds can go up to 10 times faster than regular ambient wind speeds. This causes the fires to spread to longer distances at a fast pace.” Lieutenant Andrews also described a method of digging trenches around the perimeter of wildfires to keep fires from spreading, or even possibly stopping them all together. 

Australia is home to some of the most endangered species on the planet. According to Reporters Karin Brulliard and Darryl Fears of the Washington Post, “Although dead and scorched koalas and kangaroos have become the symbols of wildlife suffering in the worst blazes ever to hit fire-prone Australia, conservationists note that those species are not at risk of extinction.” However, some endangered species at risk of extinction include the mouse sized dunnart, long footed potoroo, and the Kangaroo Island glossy black cockatoo. The Kangaroo Island glossy black cockatoo eats the seeds of she-oak trees but sadly, all of the she-oak trees have gone up in flames, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Since their only source of nutrition has been devoured by the fires, it is very possible the Kangaroo Island glossy black cockatoo may become extinct. 

As humans, we have the responsibility to take care of our planet in every way possible. The next time you go camping or take part in any activity with fire, or other substances that could affect the environment negatively, remember to take great care and avoid destroying the environment. If you are interested in helping the Australian victims of these fires, there are several organizations, such as Australian Red Cross, Australia Salvation Army, and Save the Children Australia, that are accepting donations. Every little bit helps!