By Jackie Chen
Since September 2019, intense wildfires have been burning in Australia, mainly in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, after a year of their most intense drought and heatwave on record.
As of Jan. 8, an estimated 26 million acres of land have been burned–an area about half the size of Oregon–along over 5,900 buildings. 28 people have been killed, along with one billion animals, due to these fires. According to an article from Vox, the changing climate was the main cause of the fires’ intensity. Leading up to the fires, Australia experienced one of their worst heatwaves and droughts, creating the dry conditions that can start a fire. This, combined with Australia’s eucalyptus trees, which contain flammable eucalyptus oil, created an environment that can easily be set ablaze.
“I think this is another major marker of the progression of climate change on a world stage,” said Matthew Fields, an ESA chemistry and environmental studies teacher. “Right now, an entire continent is on fire. This was predicted. We saw this coming.”
Australia isn’t the only place that’s affected by these fires. The large amounts of smoke produced from it have reached other areas like New Zealand, and has gone as far as off the coast of South America, over 8,000 miles away, according to photos from a satellite taken by NASA.
“It could have been prevented long term by being more proactive about fossil fuel emissions,” said Fields, in reference to how fossil fuel emissions have been shown to increase temperatures around the globe. “More specifically, this could have been prevented by the Australian government being more aggressive with their fire preventative policies.”
However, Australia is receiving help in order to put these fires out. In fact, some of that help is coming from here in California. According to an article from CNN, 20 veteran firefighters were sent to Australia on Jan. 6 to help cut off and put out the fires. Australia has done the same for California in the past, most recently sending 138 total firefighters to help combat California’s 2018 fires.
On top of help with the fires from outside countries, there has been major support for the animals of Australia by the Australian government, which set aside $50 million for support and protection of their endangered species, according to an article from The Guardian. Many articles, including one from The Washington Post have also reported Australian officials dropping thousands of pounds of sweet potatoes and carrots from planes to feed these endangered species, who had lost their food sources in the fires.
“Most people here [in the U.S.] are feeling bad that it’s occurring, but don’t really care since it doesn’t affect them,” said Adrian Segura, an ESA sophomore. “It doesn’t matter if it’s an entire continent burning, people will just be glad it’s not around them.”