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Volume 85, Issue 16 Web Edition SERVING BREVARD COLLEGE SINCE 1935
January 15, 2020
The inferno in Austraiia
By Zach Dickerson
Editor in Chief
With a combination of record breaking
temperatures and months of severe drought, the
massive bushfires of Australia that have been
burning since September continue to intensify
and rage on.
So far, many towns have been evacuated
(many of these towns being totally destroyed
with 2,000 homes gone), at least 25 people have
been killed, an estimated one billion animals
have been killed and 15.6 million acres have
burned (roughly the size of West Virginia).
One of the states that has been affected the
worst is New South Wales, located on the
lower east coast of the country, where fires have
burned roughly 12.4 million acres and destroyed
1,300 homes. As of Monday, Jan. 6, about 130
fires were burning across the state in the bush,
mountain forests and national parks.
Billions of animals that are unique to Australia
are also dying or at risk. In New South Wales
alone, a third of their koala population have died
and a third of their habitat destroyed as well,
according to federal environmental minister
Sussan Ley in December.
Other animals that have been greatly affected
are wombats, who can’t cope with heat or stress
and panic at the smell of smoke, as well as
kangaroos and many other native animals.
Both officials and even regular citizens are
desperately working to save, proteet, care for and
rehabilitate all of these animals. But these fires
are obliterating Australia’s iconic ecosystem.
Once fires have started, other areas are at risk,
with embers blown by the wind causing blazes to
spread to new areas. Bush fires themselves can
also drive thunderstorms, increasing the risk of
lightning strikes and further fires.
While the fires have been traced back to
being started either by lightning strikes or
people, either through accident or deliberately
committing arson (with some people currently
This photo of a kangaroo near a burning home in New South Waies, Austraiia by New York Times
photographer Matthew Abbott has come to symboiize the destruction wrought by the wiidfires in Austraiia.
Taken in the middie of the day Dec. 31, it appeared in the Times and has since been shared wideiy in sociai
media, even garnering more than 2 miiiion iikes on the instagram page of Greta Thunberg, the teenage
ciimate and environmentai activist who was named Time magazine’s 2019 Person of the Year iast month.
in custody), scientists have stated that climate
change is a big proponent to why the fires are so
massive and spreading like they are.
Hot, dry weather combined with a long
drought period and strong winds have created
the perfect conditions for the fire to spread
rapidly. According to the Australian Bureau of
Meteorology, “Climate change is increasing the
bushfire risk in Australia by lengthening the fire
season, decreasing precipitation and increasing
2019 was also both the hottest and driest year
ever measured in Australia, according to the
Bureau of Meteorology, with December being
one of the top two hottest months on record.
Also, according to Climate Signals, while
climate change might not ignite the fires, it is
giving them the chance to turn into catastrophic
blazes by creating warmer temperatures,
increasing the amount of fuel (dried vegetation)
available and reducing water availability
because of higher evaporation.
While Australia is no stranger to drought,
climate change has worsened drought conditions
so that when droughts occur, the conditions are
in a much hotter climate and, in some cases,
with lower precipitation, according to Climate
The Climate Reality Project also reports
that making the connection between global
temperature rise and wildfires is also pretty
simple science. As droughts dry out the land,
killing plant life, which then also dries out itself,
becoming far easier to ignite.
Professional firefighters in Australia and
thousands of volunteers are working to combat
the flames, as well as firefighters from other
countries such as the United States, Canada and
New Zealand. Australia’s police, military and
navy are also working on rescue and evacuation
The firefighters are working to combat the
flames by spraying water and fire retardant from
planes, helicopters and from the ground. But
because the fires are extremely difficult to fight,
authorities often have to turn to just stopping the
spread of the flames rather than putting them out.
They work to contain the spread by digging
earth boundaries to stop them. The main priority
is to work on saving lives.