Australia is Burning

Updated: May 17

by Kathryn Odgers

Bush fires have plagued Australia for the past six months, affecting all of the country with 24 people dead nationwide, 500 million animals killed, more than 17.9 million acres burned and more than 2,000 homes damaged or destroyed due to these massive blazes, with the additional threat of persistent heat and drought. The country has been in turmoil since late July of last year with climate change and people starting additional fires, causing millions of human and wildlife death, and millions of acres destroyed.

Wingello State Forest in Wingello, Australia (Photography by Brett Hemmings)

All six states of Australia have been engulfed in these fires with entire towns being destroyed, with states such as New South Wales having 1,588 homes destroyed and over 650 damaged and 12.1 million acres in the state alone being burned. Even the 2019 Amazon rainforest fires burned more than 17.5 million acres in 2019, and California burned 1 million acres in 2018, which both are even less than the ongoing burn fires. About half a billion animals have been affected by these fires in New South Wales alone, with millions estimated to have died, although ecologists say the sum is more likely to be higher and one billion nationwide. A third of koalas in the country have been killed in the fires and a third of their habitats destroyed, according to Federalist Environment Minister Sussan Ley, although they aren’t in any danger of extinction compared to animals who live in niche environments with small populations on the verge of being wiped out entirely.

People evacuated from the small coastal town of Mallacoota in Victoria, Australia by The Royal Australian Navy

Every summer the hot, dry weather in Australia makes it easy for these bush fires to spark and flame, although humans are accountable for starting them as well. The country is also experiencing one of its worst droughts in decades and broke the record for the highest nationwide average temperature above 40 degrees Celsius, or 113-120 degrees Fahrenheit. Strong winds have also contributed to the spreading of fires and smoke more rapidly leading to fatalities such as 28-year-old volunteer firefighter who died in December after his truck rolled over. All of these natural disasters worsen every year, according to climate change experts, who say weather conditions grow more extreme and fires sparking earlier in the year and bigger.

Australian wildlife rescuer Simon Adamczyk rescues a koala from the burning forest on Kangaroo Island (Photography by David Mariuz)

Currently, the state and federal authorities have been battling these fires for months, Victoria declaring a state of disaster, New South Wales declaring a state of emergency, and Queensland briefly declaring a state of emergency in November to battle the fires. Other countries such as the United States, Canada, and New Zealand have sent additional firefighters to support, although their aid is limited due to laws. The federal government has sent in military assistance to help evacuate, search and rescue, and clean-up the mass destruction these fires have left behind.

Anyone can help to stop these hazardous fires through donations to several organizations such as the Australian Red Cross, Salvation Army Australia, the NSW Rural Fire Service, St. Vincent de Paul Society Australia, and more who are helping recovery and victim relief; along with wildlife rescue and treatment groups such as WIRES, the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, and Currumbin Wildlife Hospital who are helping provide drinking stations, rescuing the koalas, and rehabilitate them.

Photos by David Caird, Tracey Nearmy, The Australian Maritime Safety Authority, The Australian Department of Defense, Brett Hemmings, Saeed Khan, Peter Parks, Lukas Coch, Tracey Nearmy, John Mair, POIS Tom Gibson, Getty Images, and Jenny Evans

Resources to Donate:

Australian Red Cross

The Australian Red Cross works with politicians, policy-makers, organizations and the public to better situations in Australia and takes action to improve people’s lives. These teams are currently supporting thousands of people in evacuation centers and recovery hubs across Australia. This is tax-deductible with donations of $2 or more.

Salvation Army Disaster Appeal

The Salvation Army Emergency Services teams are responding to these bushfires around Australia at evacuation sites providing meals and other support to evacuees and frontline responders.

St. Vincent de Paul Society Brushfire Appeal

The NSW is helping with food, bills, clothing, and damaged homes to help improve people’s lives in Australia. With the bush fires, the Vinnies are helping provide foods, clothing, essential items, grocery vouchers, unexpected bills, referrals to other organizations and emotional support. This is also tax-deductible with donations of $2 or more.

Directly to the NSW Rural Fire Service

The NSW Rural Fire Service Brigades are more often than just emergency service, but is also used in community service, community meeting points or offer non-emergency assistance roles. Donating helps benefit volunteer brigades and is always appreciated which can be donated by credit card. This is tax-deductible with donations of $2 or more.

Port Macquarie Koala Hospital

The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, Koala Ark and 54 organizations are helping build drinking stations for wildlife organizations in New South Wales regions, along with a water-carrying vehicle with fire fighting capabilities to replenish these drinking stations and will be set up in burnt areas to help koala and wildlife survival.

Wires Wildlife Rescue Emergency Fund

Wires organization helps actively rehabilitate and preserve Australian wildlife for the past thirty years. With the recent fires, they are trying to rescue and care for these innocent victims of the fires and drought. Anyone can donate through credit card, Paypal, Facebook, or bank deposit.

GLD Fire & Rescue

The Queensland Fire and Emergency Services are the main providers of fire and emergency services in Queensland, responding to structural, landscape and vehicle fire; road crash rescue; swift water and natural disaster; building fire safety; hazardous condition incidents; land, marine, air, and urban search and rescue; crime scene, missing person, and forensic searches; and animal disease outbreaks. You can donate directly or through cheque, which also allows you to have a tax-deductible for your donation.

GIVIT Australia

GIVIT Listed Ltd is a national non-for-profit working with impoverished, marginalized and vulnerable people. This allows donors to choose a charity and a delivery item in private by pledging items or money. The funds will be used to purchase essential items for those impacted by the bush fires.

SA Bushfire Appeal

The South Australian government has launched the SA Bushfire Appeal to raise funds for people directly affected by bushfires in Cudlee Creek and on Kangaroo Island.

Currumbin Wildlife Hospital

The Currumbin Wildlife Hospital helps treat, rehabilitate and release native wildlife, especially since the fires in Australia have devastated these animal’s habitats, especially koalas. Donations will help save koalas tragically harmed in the bushfires, especially in the next 6-12 months as animals return to their habitats and seek food, limited shelter, and attempt to remain healthy as they recover.


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