Australian Wildfire Disaster

Information about the fires and how the district can become involved

Madeline Wiktorowski, Staff Writer

As on Jan. 4, it was estimated that nearly 18 million acres have burned throughout Australia. To put that into perspective; The Amazon Rainforest fire burned 17 million acres and California’s wildfire in 2019 burned 247,000 acres. Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Victoria have all been affected, but the hardest-hit state is New South Wales. Twenty-four people (including volunteer firefighters, such as from Team Rubicon) have died from this tragic fire, and 20 of those people were from New South Wales alone. 

The question is, what is the cause of the fires? Well, every summer Australia’s dry, hot weather causes small bush fires. The drought that has come over the country this year makes it easier for the fires to start and harder to contain. The strong winds have caused the fire to spread more rapidly, but the dry heat isn’t the only thing to blame for these destructive fires. 

Officials say that at least 24 people have been charged for intentionally starting bushfires in New South Wales. Some sort of legal action has been taken on a total of 183 people, 40 of those being juveniles. Most have just received cautions or warnings for failing to comply with the total fire ban spread throughout the area. Even lighting a cigarette is considered illegal for the time being because of the extreme drought. 

Senior McKenna Richardson has family who currently lives in Australia. Although they are on the opposite side of where the fire is, Richardson stated, “It is still a scary thing to think about how some people are purposely starting and spreading the fire, because they could decide to come to the other side of the country where my family lives.” Although the fire has only spread throughout one area of the country, the people of Australia are fearful.

The topic that seems to be on everybody’s mind recently is the animals. As of last month, an estimated half a million animals had been wiped out. Some species are even on the verge of extinction. The number of dead kangaroos and koalas is skyrocketing. Kangaroo Island’s whole west side has almost been completely taken out. One of the big questions is; how can people help? People can donate directly to the state fire authority or a local fire brigade in Victoria or New South Wales, the Australian Red Cross, GoFundMe fundraisers for First Nations Communities, Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal, and GIVIT. There are also sites strictly designated for the volunteer firefighters who are losing their homes while they fight without pay. The donating outlets are limited to the ones provided above.

BHS teacher Matthew Cunningham has traveled to many different countries throughout his lifetime, but he said that Australia was one of the prettiest. Cunningham stated, “This fire could bring much devastation to the whole country. Since Australia is a smaller island, the fire could spread more easily than it would in the US or Europe.” 

Students from BHS have taken part by spreading awareness on their social media accounts by reposting various different images which include the websites of where donations can be collected. Giving even just a little bit can help the people and animals in need from Australia.

Although Australia has experienced some rain in the past weeks, they are experiencing one of its worst droughts in decades, and more blazes are expected to come. The US, Canada, and New Zealand have all sent help in order to stop these devastating wildfires.