What Are Australian Bushfires?

By Antonia Čirjak on January 24 2020 in Environment

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - January 21, 2020: Fire and Rescue personel. Credit: SS studio photography / Shutterstock.com
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - January 21, 2020: Fire and Rescue personel. Credit: SS studio photography / Shutterstock.com

Bushfires are uncontrolled fires that mostly occur in rural areas. They have shaped the nature of Australia throughout the history of the world. They occur regularly and are often spread throughout the continent. The eastern part of Australia is where the majority of the population lives, and is also very much prone to bushfires. One of the main reasons for that is the vast eucalyptus forests. Despite them being a somewhat regular occurrence, they cause enormous damage to property and are the reason for the loss of countless human and animal lives.

The Cause Of Bushfires

The Australian continent has been subjected to gradual drying throughout the last 15 million years. That has made its environment very prone to fires. Extremely high temperatures combined with strong winds and generally low humidity are the main reasons that the bushfires in Australia can spread so fast. A large part of the Australian flora and fauna has adapted significantly to these conditions. Some even evolved to the point where bushfires are needed for them to reproduce successfully. 

Throughout history, indigenous Australians used fire as a tool to help them with hunting or to clear tracks while traveling through thick vegetation. When they started to settle in Australia, the Europeans were also forced to adapt and started using fire to their advantage. Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, new advances have been made in dealing with the threat of bushfires. People began developing nature reserves and national parks. However, with global warming being a bigger problem than ever, the possibility of new dangerous fires began to grow.

January 2020 fire affecting Australia is considered the most devastating and deadly ever seen.
January 2020 fire affecting Australia is considered the most devastating and deadly ever seen.

The Bushfires of 2019 and 2020

Starting in June of 2019, Australia has been hit with a large number of bushfires. It continued into 2020, and it is believed that approximately 72,000 square miles of land have been burnt. During that time, almost six thousand buildings have been destroyed, and at least 34 human lives have been taken by bushfires. It is also estimated that one billion animals were killed, while particularly endangered species have become extinct solely due to the fires.

Many believe this to be the worst bushfire season recorded in the history of Australia. A state of emergency was declared due to the temperatures being extremely high, which causes even more bushfires to appear. The part of Australia that has been the most damaged is the southeast region, mostly New South Wales. Some areas have had fires burning out of control for four weeks inside forests before emerging outside, taking multiple lives.

Throughout Australia, reinforcements were sent to help to fight the bushfires. Even the Australian Defence Force has been mobilized to grant air support to firefighters. Multiple teams of firefighters were sent from Singapore, New Zealand, the United States, and Canada to help calm the fires. The environmental and ecological effects of this season of bushfires are tremendous. Large amounts of carbon dioxide have been emitted into the air. Since the forests have been burned down, nothing can absorb the carbon dioxide for the time being. It could take decades for the forests to grow enough to be able to absorb it. Large amounts of smoke emitted have severely damaged the quality of air.

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