Australia is facing a massive challenge, which turned into an unprecedented national crisis; bush fires have swept across the country. Since the end of September, about twenty people have been killed, and over a thousand homes have been destroyed. At the turn of the New Year, another twenty-eight people lost their lives as the fires tore into eastern Victoria. There is no end to the fires’ insight, and the scale of the threat is immense. Authorities have called for people to evacuate their homes as the nation is swept up in flames.
The news is all over social media, and people, especially Australians, have been pleading for help. The roaring flames have flattened entire cities and small towns as the fires have snaked in through the bushland, up mountains, and across highways.
In the most populous states of the nation, Victoria and Wales, people tried their best to outrun the flames, and highways became flooded with cars. In cities like Melbourne and Sydney, a massive, dense smoke has descended over the regions like a blanket. Some areas of Australia have recorded air quality, which is about twenty times more than the hazardous limit.
The situation keeps on getting worse; matters are grim. Australians are frustrated and exhausted by a lack of any clear leadership. Many have had to flee their homes; help is required as there is no end in sight.
Now the question is, how did the fires start in the first place? Australia is a country that is quite familiar with bushfires, the importance of those fires for the regeneration of land and bushfire management. The indigenous people that have inhabited the Australian land for thousands of years know how important bushfires are for the health of the ecosystem and its management.
Bushfires have always been a significant threat, but these flames today have been described as unprecedented in their intensity and scale.
Fires can start in a variety of ways, from arson to carelessly discarded cigarettes to lightning strikes. But they are fuelled and strengthened by several factors, such as low rainfall, high temperatures, lack of moisture in the soil, and fierce winds — factors such as this help to turn small fires into scenes from hell. Plus, with the fire seasons getting longer and longer, the window to successfully perform significant hazard reduction burns has significantly decreased, giving the fires a chance to take hold.
The truth of the matter is that most Australian fire fighting did know about the upcoming fire crisis, and they tried to meet up with Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister of Australia, but their efforts did not result in much.
Climate change does not have any direct effect on it, as holes in the ozone layer don’t start fires, but intense climatic changes do help to make the situation worse. The Climate Council, which is a private organization set up by the community, has said that the bushfire conditions today are much worse than they were in the past, with extended bushfire seasons, drier soils, and fuels, droughts and record-shattering heat.
Politicians have continuously blamed climate change for the intense situation and it has become a matter that is being tossed around, but experts do believe that climate change does explain the unprecedented nature of the bushfires.
According to the Bureau of Meteorology, Australia has experienced its hottest year yet, climbing 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than the average. The rise in temperature did increase the risk of bushfires, and Sydney experienced a catastrophic fire threat for the first time in history.
A horrible cycle begins when the vast portions of the land are set ablaze, a fact that became well known after the Amazon fires of 2019. Bushfires lead to the emission of carbon dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas. The gas-only makes up a rather small percentage of the gases in the air, and it is excellent at trapping heat. The bushfires in Australia have released about 350 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air. Researchers believe that a century or even more will be needed to absorb such a humongous amount of carbon dioxide.
The majority of these fires have been burning in the rural as well as the regional areas where volunteer fire fighting services are the leading fire fighting organization. The New South Wales Rural Fire Service has about seventy thousand members, but most of them are executing work without getting paid to help protect the homes as well as the lives of their compatriots. According to a report by the BBC, about three thousand firefighters are on the ground and are battling with the immense flames every day. Many fire experts and firefighters have flown into the continent from Canada and The States over the past months to help control the fire. About a hundred US fire-fighters have flown in, and others are said to fly in soon.
The end of this bizarre situation seems to be far away as Australia is just one month into the summer, and dry plus hot conditions do persist way into March and April. Much needed rain, could help decrease the intensity of the uncontrollable blazes.
In total, more than 14.7 million acres have been burned across the six states of Australia, which is a larger area than Haiti and Belgium combined. The worst of the state is New South Wales, with about 8.9 million acres burned.
There has been considerable damage to the environment as well as wildlife. Almost a third of Koalas in New South Wales have been killed in the fires, and a third of their habitat was destroyed, according to the Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley.
This crisis is a wakeup call to the world. But still governments, state and federal, with just a few exceptions, are pretending that all this is very normal. It is tragic, but business as usual. The Australian authorities have been lecturing the public to stay prepared and calm, but no one knows that to be prepared for. No one knows where the safe is.