Fires have been burning through the country of Australia for months. International media outlets finally began discussing the natural disaster in December, with human deaths calculated at at least 27, and wildlife deaths estimated to be over one billion. Roughly 2000 homes have also been destroyed in the mix, along with entire animal habitats.
“I found myself glued to the news reports, unable to focus on anything else,” said Tracy Fuller, an Australian native living in Melbourne.
“Hearing people talk about it, it doesn’t seem real. It’s absolutely devastating to hear [about]”, added Kristy Hospes, another Aussie, who has been in the United States all throughout the time of the fires burning.
Australians are no strangers to fires, as they typically pop up during the dry season, which is their spring and summer. However, 2019 was the hottest and driest year on record, making them more susceptible to larger, more catastrophic fires. New South Wales and Victoria — both states on the southeastern side of the country — are the states that have witnessed the most devastation. New South Wales also happens to be the region’s most popular area for tourists, as the country’s largest city, Sydney, is located there.
“[The fires] are affecting the close surrounding areas to my home. Friends and family have just been cautious to follow the fires and have a plan ready and a place to evacuate [to] if it becomes necessary,” said Hospes.
Over 12 million acres of land have burnt in Australia so far, and it has yet to slow down due to the increasing temperatures. To put this in perspective, the country of Australia is similar in size to the continental United States, and the amount of land that has burnt is comparable to the size of Indiana. Therefore, if a fire of this size occurred in the United States, it would have the potential to wipe away an entire state.
In comparison to other recent wildfires, the California wildfires of 2018 burnt about 2 million acres, and the Amazon fires of 2019 burnt 2.2 million acres.
The government has been largely in question during these times, as many civilians believe they are not doing everything possible to keep them safe.
“People everywhere are talking about the fires, climate change [and] what the government should have done and how we can contribute to recovery,” said Fuller.
The bushfires in Australia have stirred up conversation concerning how their government views climate change, the biggest contributor to the fires. Their Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, refuses to prioritize climate change, and was on vacation in
Hawaii when the fires began to worsen. Many even feel as though Morrison abandoned them when they needed help the most.
Still, Australians are persistent and put up a united front.
“Everybody I know has donated in some way: [whether it be with] money, food [or] supplies,” said Fuller.
She also mentioned that businesses are donating their profits, and nurses and builders are working for no pay to help out. Facebook groups have also been created to help rehabilitate wildlife, some are even sewing pouches for baby kangaroos and koalas who lost their mothers.
“I know people are getting a lot of health issues due to the air quality, so I believe that’s going to be hard to adjust to [once the fires are contained],” said Hospes.
“[However,] the overall sense of community will be stronger, as everyone is doing everything they can to help those in need.”
The country of Australia is going through devastation like none could imagine, but the civilians have rallied together, and others from around the world are sending support, whether that be physical labor or with monetary funds. Still, no money will bring back the lives that have been lost, or the amount of loss that has already occurred.