Australia's bushfires are ravaging the country. Here's how it all happened.

  • Australia’s deadly bushfires sparked in September 2019 and have been blazing ever since. A prolonged drought that began in 2017 made this year’s bushfire season more devastating than ever.
  • The fires created unprecedented damage, destroying more than 14 million acres of land and killing more than 20 people and an estimated 1 billion animals.
  • From the driest September ever in 2018 to the raging fires of January 2020, here’s a timeline with photos and detailed maps that show how the Australian bushfires happened.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.


September 2018: Eastern Australia experiences its driest September ever amid a prolonged drought that began in 2017.

David Grey/ReutersDroughts plagued Australia in 2017 and 2018.

Source: Business Insider


September 2019: Australia’s Weather Bureau predicts at least three more months of drought as fires begin to spark.

Jonathan Barrett/ReutersA view of cracked earth due to drought at a small water reservoir in Armidale in rural Australia on September 24, 2019.

Source: Business Insider


September to November 2019: Australia experiences its driest spring on record.

Photo by Brook Mitchell/Getty ImagesDroughts continued in 2019.

Source: Business Insider


October 2019: Australia’s annual bushfire season officially begins. The prolonged drought causes embers from fires to spread, leading to more intense fires in the 2019 season.

Source: Insider


November 8 to 10, 2019: Three people die in fires in Queensland and New South Wales.

ROB GRIFFITH/AFP/Getty ImagesFirefighters refill their water from a water tanker in Pacific Drive in the Deepwater National Park area of Queensland on November 28, 2018.

Source: CNBC


November 11, 2019: A state of emergency is declared in New South Wales and Queensland.

Google MapsQueensland and New South Wales are in eastern Australia.

Source: Business Insider


November to December 2019: Fires continue to spread.

Copernicus EMSA satellite photo of Bateman Bay on the southern coast of New South Wales on December 31, 2019.

Source: Insider


December 8, 2019: For the first time ever, US firefighters are deployed to Australia.

AP Photo/Rick RycroftUS firefighters not pictured.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald


December 18, 2019: Australia experiences its hottest day in history with average temperatures reaching 105.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

Australian Bureau of MeteorologyTemperatures in southeastern Australia on January 4, 2020.

Source: Business Insider


December 21, 2019: A bushfire in the East Gippsland region of Victoria begins creating its own weather. The smoke generates clouds that create thunderstorms ultimately leading to more fires.

Bureau of Meteorology, VictoriaThe clouds are called ‘pyrocumulonimbus’ clouds.

Source: Business Insider, The Sydney Morning Herald


December 28, 2019: Thousands are told to evacuate East Gippsland as the fire danger zone spreads.

Google MapsEastern Victoria is deemed unsafe in December 2019.

Source: The Guardian


December 30, 2019: Major roads close in East Gippsland, reportedly trapping the residents and visitors who didn’t evacuate earlier.

Source: Insider


December 31, 2019: The fires continue to worsen. The fires have killed a total of at least 16 people.

Source: Bloomberg


January 1, 2020: Out of necessity, Australia opens 15 South Coast bushfire evacuation centres.

Rosie Perper/Business InsiderA cleared-out section of a supermarket near the evacuation shelter that had been set up in the Narooma sports and leisure centre.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald


January 2, 2020: New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian declares a state of emergency and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews declares a state of disaster.

SAEED KHAN/AFP via Getty ImagesThe sky turns red from bushfires in Bemboka, New South Wales, on January 5, 2020.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald


January 4, 2020: The Snowy Mountains area is ablaze as the fires continue to spread south. The death toll rises to 23.

Google MapsThe Snowy Mountains area is in New South Wales near the Victoria border.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald, The Guardian


January 6, 2020: Decreasing winds and temperatures in Victoria and New South Wales ease conditions, but fires are expected to continue burning for weeks, according to the Guardian.

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

Source: The Guardian

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