28 photos show the reality for firefighters and residents battling hundreds of deadly bushfires across Australia

SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty ImagesThis photo taken on December 18, 2019 shows volunteer firefighter Gary Stokes monitoring bushfires close to the residential area in Dargan, some 120 kilometres from Sydney. – Bushfires have been raging along Australia’s east coast for months, burning three million hectares (7.4 million acres) — equivalent to the size of Belgium — and razed more than 800 homes in worst-hit New South Wales alone.

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.

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.

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.

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.

SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty ImagesA demonstrator with a mask attends a climate protest rally in Sydney on December 11, 2019.


Source: SBS


The fires have threatened Australia’s endangered koala populations.

SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty ImagesA demonstrator dressed as a ‘homeless koala’ attends a climate protest rally in Sydney on December 11, 2019.

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.

SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty ImagesThis photo taken on December 10, 2019 shows firefighters conducting back-burning measures, which is setting controlled fires, to secure residential areas from encroaching bushfires in the Central Coast, north of Sydney.

Back-burning is a method used in Australia to mitigate the spread of fires, though they are largely dependant on weather conditions.

SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty ImagesA firefighter conducts back-burning measures in the Central Coast on December 10, 2019.

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 issued catastrophic fire condition warnings last week, and weather conditions have been increasingly hot and dry in some areas, exacerbating fire conditions.


Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said that preliminary readings indicated that Australia recorded its hottest day on record last Wednesday.

SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty ImagesBurnt trees are seen after a bushfire in Mount Weison in Blue Mountains, near Sydney.


Source: Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology


The bureau also predicted that parts of the country would see a continuation of warmer and drier-than-average conditions throughout 2020.

Mark Evans/Getty ImagesActivists rally for climate action at Sydney Town Hall on December 11, 2019 in Sydney, Australia.

Australia has mobilized at least 10,000 emergency personnel to tackle the flames.

David Grey/Getty ImagesA Fire and Rescue personal watches a bushfire as it burns near homes on the outskirts of the town of Bilpin on December 19, 2019 in Sydney, Australia.


Source: BBC


So far, bushfires have burnt at least three million hectares (7.4 million acres) in New South Wales alone.

SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty ImagesThis photo taken on December 18, 2019 shows volunteer firefighter Gary Stokes monitoring bushfires close to the residential area in Dargan, some 120 kilometers (75 miles) from Sydney.


Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation


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.

PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty ImagesA property burns from bushfires in Balmoral on December 19, 2019.


Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation


Balmoral Rural Fire Brigade captain Brendan O’Connor said at least 90 per cent of bushland around the town has been destroyed.

PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty ImagesA helicopter drops fire retardent to protect a property in Balmoral on December 19, 2019.


Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation


“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.

PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty ImagesA fireman fights a bushfire to protect a property in Balmoral on December 19, 2019.


Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation


Resident Steven Harrison, a potter, told the ABC that he hid inside a kiln as the flames engulfed his town.

PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty ImagesFiremen fight a bushfire to protect a property in Balmoral on December 19, 2019.

“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.

PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty ImagesA fireman fights a bushfire in Balmoral on December 19, 2019.

“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.

PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty ImagesFirefighters tend to burning property caused by bushfires in Bargo on December 21, 2019.

At least 50 homes were destroyed and much of the area was reduced to an “apocalyptic wasteland.”

PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty ImagesA burnt-out car is seen on property razed by bushfires in Bargo on December 21, 2019.


Source: The Australian


“Our neighbourhood was on fire,” Bargo resident Trysta Dykes told The Australian. “This is the most devastation I have seen in my life.”

David Grey/Getty ImagesA burnt bicycle lies on the ground in front of a house recently destroyed by bushfires on the outskirts of the town of Bargo on December 21, 2019.


Source: The Australian


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.

PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty ImagesA helicopter prepares to drop water on a large bushfire in Bargo on December 21, 2019.


Source: The Australian


“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.”

PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty ImagesA helicopter prepares to drop water on a large bushfire in Bargo on December 21, 2019.


Source: The Australian


In Green Wattle Creek, near Bargo, a bushfire was still raging as of Monday afternoon.

PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty ImagesFiretrucks are seen stationed on a road as a bushfire burns in Bargo on December 21, 2019.

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.

Jenny Evans/Getty ImagesTributes for Keaton and O’Dwyer are seen at Horsley Park Rural Fire Brigade on December 22, 2019 in Sydney, Australia.

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.

Jenny Evans/Getty ImagesCommissioner of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service Shane Fitzsimmons talks to members of the Rural Fire Service at Horsley Park Rural Fire Brigade on December 22, 2019 in Sydney, Australia.

A bushfire in Shoalhaven, New South Wales continued to burn on Monday.

Cassie Spencer/Getty ImagesThe sky is filled with smoke, and ash on December 21, 2019 in Shoalhaven Heads, Australia.


Source: New South Wales Rural Fire Service


As of Monday, the bushfire burned over 169,000 (417,000 acres).

Cassie Spencer/Getty ImagesKids play in the pool at a holiday park on December 21, 2019 in Shoalhaven Heads.


Source: New South Wales Rural Fire Service


The nearby fires have had a serious impact on the nearby city of Sydney.

Jenny Evans/Getty ImagesA man looks over a smokey Sydney skyline on December 19, 2019 in Sydney, Australia.

The city has been blanketed in a thick cloud of smoke for weeks.

WENDELL TEODORO/ZEDUCE/AFP via Getty ImagesA demonstrator holds up a seasonally-appropriate placard while walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge during a climate protest rally in Sydney on December 21, 2019.

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.

Jenny Evans/Getty ImagesActivists rally for climate action at Sydney Town Hall on December 11, 2019 in Sydney, Australia.

28 of those days were considered to be “hazardous.”


Source: Sydney Morning Herald


Many residents are struggling to continue their routine under unhealthy air conditions.

WENDELL TEODORO/ZEDUCE/AFP via Getty ImagesA demonstrator wearing a breathing mask attends a climate protest rally in Sydney on December 21, 2019.

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.

Mark Evans/Getty ImagesA protestor wearing a mask looks on as Activists rally for climate action at Sydney Town Hall on December 11, 2019 in Sydney, Australia.

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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