Fires in Australia Burn Land 80 Times the Size of 2019 California Wildfires


The fires in Australia started in November of 2019 and have killed 28 people, destroyed 3,000 homes and forced thousands of families to evacuate their homes. Photo Courtesy of Chelsey Comor.

Ella Hartmanis, Staff Writer

Recent fires in Australia have killed 28 people, destroyed 3,000 homes and forced thousands of families to evacuate their homes, according to CNN. The fires started in November 2019 and have grown to burn more than 18 million acres of land — 80 times the size of the 2019 wildfires in California, according to NBC

Australia’s fire season has historically been dangerous; however, the country is currently experiencing one of the worst droughts in decades and a heatwave this past December broke the record for the highest nationwide temperature ever, according to CNN. Additionally, experts say climate change has contributed to the fires because they are starting earlier in the season and are more pervasive, according to CNN.

More than one billion animals have been killed by the fires along with thousands of habitats. In New South Wales alone, where the fires are the worst, 30% of the koala population has been killed, according to The Guardian. On Kangaroo Island, off the coast of South Australia,  about 50% of the 4,400-square-kilometer island has burned, destroying the habitats of up to 100 threatened species, according to Science News. To help the animals whose habitats have been burned, Australian services have been dropping sweet potatoes and carrots from helicopters and creating makeshift animal shelters, according to the Washington Post. 

Australia has the world’s largest volunteer fire service. According to The New York Times, in New South Wales alone, there are 72,000 volunteer firefighters. The volunteers leave their jobs to fight the fires; however, they aren’t paid for their services which can be hard on families and individuals, according to The New York Times. “They’ve just walked away from their families, their businesses and have had to go help until further notice,” Eve Kubleida said. 

Kulbeida, who was born in Australia and lived there until she was 27, is one of the members of the Menlo community who have been affected by the fires. Although she hasn’t been directly impacted, she has family who live in Sydney who have been impacted by the smoke. “My friend packed up with her small children and went to the other side of the island because the smoke was so bad,” Kulbeida said. 

Between January 21st to 24th, the Menlo Climate Coalition is hosting a bike-a-thon to donate money to the Red Cross to help with the fires.  Menlo students can get up to five sponsors who will then donate money for every mile they bike or walk to school. 

Although the fires are still widespread, it has recently rained heavily in areas, including New South Wales and Victoria, which has helped to alleviate some of the fires, according to BBC.