The Frederick Gunn Student Newspaper

Australian Wildfires: Causes and Effects

By Ava Lee ’21

Since November 2019, wildfires in Australia have rapidly spread across the continent, hitting many urban and rural locations. The fires have displaced families and killed thousands of animals. 

As we learned during Green Club’s school meeting presentation and the video they shared, this past year has brought unusually high temperatures and have caused many small and large  were instructed to evacuate their homes to protect themselves. Although response teams were able to contain the fire quickly, six houses were destroyed. 

Bushfire in Southeastern Queensland.
Courtesy of CNN.

One place that has been hit particularly hard is New South Wales. The fires in New South Wales have demolished towns, cities, and even large portions of national parks. As soon as the fires started, citizens followed evacuation procedures to protect themselves. Fires in New South Wales still breakout every day even now. Cities such as Sydney, Australia are hazy from the fires but are not facing damage as bad as the National Parks and natural terrain. 

Since the start of January 2020, around 16 million acres of land have been burned in the Australian wildfires. The amount of land damaged in just Southeast Australia is about 8 times the amount of land destroyed in the California wildfires. 

The hundreds of wildfires breaking out have killed at least 29 people. About 2,500 houses are destroyed from the wildfires. Although Australia has experienced terrifying wildfires in the past, they have never seen damage like this.

When asked about how the fires are impacting her home, Australian international student Grace Robinson ‘21 says: “I live in the city so I am lucky enough that my home has not been affected. However, we do have many friends and family who own property in the bush, who have been forced to evacuate and have lost significant amounts of land; luckily the firefighters were able to save their homes.”  

In addition to the damage to structures and towns, the fires also destroy trees and the thousands of animals who live in the terrain. Smaller species such as the mountain lizards and the pear-shaped frogs have come close to going completely extinct because they have no homes. If a small species that lives in only one habitat is faced with a fire, they will likely go extinct. Other species that live in woody areas are threatened because of dehydration and suffocation. 

All of the terrible fires leave people wondering why the fires have become so frequent and so extreme. The fires can be explained by the extreme drought that Australia is going through. When lightning strikes the drylands the fires spread rapidly, igniting everything in their path. Many scientists attribute the drought to the rising temperatures of climate change.

Many organizations are helping everyone recover from the damage in various ways. Red Cross Australia provides firefighters with canteens of water and hot meals. The NSW Rural Fire Service gathers volunteers to help fight the fires. Other organizations rebuild houses give families food and water. Finally, many people have also reached out to help the animals impacted by the fires.

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