- Australia is currently battling some of the worst bushfires it has ever seen.
- Those on the frontlines are facing brutal fire conditions that have killed seven people and razed more than 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres), according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
- Bushfires in Australia are very common during the hotter spring and summer months, though scientists have said that Australia’s fire season is beginning earlier and becoming more extreme as a result of climate change.
- Here are 28 photos that show the haunting reality of firefighters and residents battling bushfires currently raging through the state of New South Wales.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Australia is currently battling some of the worst bushfires it has ever seen.
Those on the frontlines are facing the brutal fire conditions that have killed seven people and razed more than 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres), according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
The NSW Rural Fire Service, which has over 74,000 volunteer members, said that as of December 22, at least 829 homes have been destroyed in fires, including 100 homes since last Thursday.
Building Impact Assessment teams continue to work their way across firegrounds. Approximately 100 homes are believed to have been lost since last Thursday. Exact numbers will be provided as access is achieved into isolated roads and villages within the fire affected areas #NSWRFS pic.twitter.com/FhqUxX7UZs
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) December 23, 2019
The fires were so out of control last week that the New South Wales Government declared a State of Emergency for the second time in two weeks. It will last from December 19 to December 26.
Australia’s Department of Defence has provided additional support in helping remove people from their homes in areas at risk of bushfires, as well as transporting firefighters by air.
The support provided by our @DeptDefence has been exceptional. #NSWRFS aviation rescue crews have been working with Defence to check homes cut off by fires. Often removing at risk people when there is no other option. Just another side of the operation that most would never see. pic.twitter.com/rDdSBzg2iw
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) December 22, 2019
According to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, there were 90 fires burning on Australia’s east coast throughout New South Wales and the neighbouring state of Australian Capital Territory on Monday afternoon.”
Video taken by volunteer firefighters on December 22 shows a fire raging in Blackheath, New South Wales, threatening homes.
This incredible video was taken by firefighters in the early hours of this morning on Hat Head Rd at #Blackheath, when the fire burnt out of the valley threatening homes. #nswrfs #nswfires pic.twitter.com/r85ccBIEeF
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) December 21, 2019
Bushfires in Australia are very common during the hotter spring and summer months, though scientists have said that Australia’s fire season is beginning earlier and becoming more extreme as a result of climate change.
Here are 28 photos that show the haunting reality of firefighters and residents battling bushfires currently raging through the state of New South Wales.
There are around 200 fires burning throughout Australia. More than half are taking place in New South Wales.
The fires have threatened Australia’s endangered koala populations.
Around 2,000 koalas are feared killed by the fires that are destroying their homes, according to SBS.
The koala is currently listed as “vulnerable” by Australia’s Environment Ministry, and experts at the Australian Koala Foundation announced in May that they believe no more than 80,000 koalas are left on the continent and are considered to be “functionally extinct.”
Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, an animal rehabilitation centre located along the Australian coastline north of Sydney, said it has treated dozens of injured koalas so far.
Fires have been raging for months in New South Wales.
Back-burning is a method used in Australia to mitigate the spread of fires, though they are largely dependant on weather conditions.
Experts have pointed out that during catastrophic fire conditions, hazard reduction burns are less effective at controlling the intensity and spread of a fire.
Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said that preliminary readings indicated that Australia recorded its hottest day on record last Wednesday.
The bureau also predicted that parts of the country would see a continuation of warmer and drier-than-average conditions throughout 2020.
Australia has mobilized at least 10,000 emergency personnel to tackle the flames.
So far, bushfires have burnt at least three million hectares (7.4 million acres) in New South Wales alone.
In the small town of Balmoral, New South Wales, home to about 400 people, at least 20 structures are believed to have been destroyed in a recent bushfire.
Balmoral Rural Fire Brigade captain Brendan O’Connor said at least 90 per cent of bushland around the town has been destroyed.
“There was enough evidence there that we were in a for a hell of a time and unfortunately that’s what we did end up with,” O’Connor told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Resident Steven Harrison, a potter, told the ABC that he hid inside a kiln as the flames engulfed his town.
“It was huge, just glowing orange-red everywhere. Just scary. I was terrified,” he told The Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Firefighters battling the blaze in Balmoral said they ran out of water at one point.
“We’re on tank water here,” O’Connell told The Guardian. “We were desperately trying to get more water into us, desperately calling for more to come in.”
In Bargo, a small town about 100 kilometers (62 miles) southwest of Sydney, firefighters battled additional fires.
At least 50 homes were destroyed and much of the area was reduced to an “apocalyptic wasteland.”
“Our neighbourhood was on fire,” Bargo resident Trysta Dykes told The Australian. “This is the most devastation I have seen in my life.”
Matthew Deeth, the mayor of Wollondilly Shire Council, where Bargo is located, said his community was “shattered” and there was “literally nothing left” in parts of the region.
“It was just so ferocious and quick,” Deeth told The Australian. “We still don’t even know who has a house to come back to and who doesn’t.”
In Green Wattle Creek, near Bargo, a bushfire was still raging as of Monday afternoon.
According to New South Wales Rural Fire Service, the fire burned through over 200,000 hectares (494,000 acres) as of Monday, and remained out of control.
Two volunteer firefighters, Geoffrey Keaton, 32, and Andrew O’Dwyer, 36, died when their truck overturned battling the Green Wattle Creek blaze.
According to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, the two men were killed while on duty when their truck was struck by a fallen tree, causing their vehicle to veer off the road and overturn.
The fire service has set up a dedicated bank account to collect donations for the families of two volunteer firefighters.
Three other members were in the backseat of the truck and survived with non-life threatening injuries.
A bushfire in Shoalhaven, New South Wales continued to burn on Monday.
As of Monday, the bushfire burned over 169,000 (417,000 acres).
The nearby fires have had a serious impact on the nearby city of Sydney.
The city has been blanketed in a thick cloud of smoke for weeks.
The nearby blazes have covered Sydney, Australia’s most populous city, in a thick cloud of smoke for weeks. Sydney is home to around five million people, equal to roughly one-fifth of the country’s population of 25 million.
Since the start of November, Sydney residents have breathed through 38 days of “very poor” air quality.
28 of those days were considered to be “hazardous.”
Many residents are struggling to continue their routine under unhealthy air conditions.
The heavy smoke made Sydney at one point last month the 12th worst city in the world for air quality, behind global hubs with notoriously bad air quality like Delhi, Mumbai, and Mongolia’s capital of Ulaanbaatar.
Many Australians remain frustrated by the government’s inaction towards addressing climate change or compensating volunteer firefighters.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday that compensating volunteer firefighters was not a priority despite the months-long and dangerous firefighting missions they have undertaken.
Morrison on Saturday said while there was “no argument” about the links “between broader issues of global climate change and weather events around the world,” he dismissed suggestions that climate change contributed to any single bushfire.
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