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Massive Fires in Australia


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MAP: Here’s where Australia’s wildfires are currently burning

Posted January 2, 2020 3:00 pm
Updated January 3, 2020 3:24 pm

 Bushfires in Australia: What ignited the deadly crisis

Raging infernos continue to burn in Australia after having deadly consequences for the country in the past weeks.

The wildfires have been widespread across several regions of the country and are currently the most severe in New South Wales and Victoria.

An early start to Australia’s wildfire summer season has killed at least 17 people, according to authorities. It has also burned 12.35 million acres of land and destroyed 1,400 homes.

The following maps show where new wildfires, under 12 hours old, were burning in Australia on Thursday afternoon. Full and up-to-date information on fires and their severity can be found at MyFireWatch.

A look at wildfires on Thursday, tracked by MyFireWatch. A look at wildfires on Thursday, tracked by MyFireWatch. Global News

In addition to Australian residents, thousands of tourists have also been forced to flee eastern seaside towns.

There are fears that the fires could get worse before they get better. Temperatures are forecast to soar above 40 degrees Celsius along the south coast over the weekend, bringing the prospect of renewed firefronts to add to the current blazes, numbering approximately 200.

Dozens of Canadians have been deployed to Australia to help with emergency responses, and are currently in New South Wales.

Melanie Morin, who works with the Canadian Interagency Forest fire Centre, explained there 66 Canadians currently in the country, with more expected to travel soon.

Morin noted these deployments are not static and can be moved around as needed. These Canadians are not firefighters, she said, but are incident-management personnel.

“The different types of roles that they will be doing there are operations strategy tactics, deciding and determining how the fire will be fought, planning logistics,” she explained.”

Here’s a look at exactly where they’re burning, and the damage they’ve caused.

New South Wales

A look at wildfires on Thursday, tracked by MyFireWatch. A look at wildfires on Thursday, tracked by MyFireWatch.

New South Wales declared a seven-day state of emergency starting Friday over the raging fires — the third such declaration in less than two months.


Authorities in the region also ordered tourists to leave a 250-kilometre zone this week, as State Transport Minister Andrew Constance called it the “largest mass relocation of people out of the region that we’ve ever seen.”

Firefighters are gearing up for Saturday, when temperatures are set to soar again.

“It is going to be a very dangerous day. It’s going to be a very difficult day,” said New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.


A look at wildfires on Thursday, tracked by MyFireWatch. A look at wildfires on Thursday, tracked by MyFireWatch.

In Victoria, at least 83 homes burned this week.

The military helped thousands of people who fled to the shoreline, as a wildfire threatened their homes in the coastal town of Mallacoota.

Food, water, fuel and medical expertise were being delivered, and about 500 people were going to be evacuated from the town by a naval ship.


“We think around 3,000 tourists and 1,000 locals are there. Not all of those will want to leave; not all can get on the vessel at one time,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

ABC’s meteorologist Jonathan How added Saturday’s high temperatures will prove to be a “dangerous day” for Victoria, along with New South Wales.

Western Australia

A look at wildfires on Thursday, tracked by MyFireWatch. A look at wildfires on Thursday, tracked by MyFireWatch.

With fears of fires getting worse, the main road into Western Australia remained closed on Thursday, The Guardian reported.

Western Australia’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services said Eyre Highway will remain closed for at least five days, according to local newspaper The West Australian. Authorities cited new ignitions and erratic infernos for the highway’s continued closure.


Several residents have hit roadlocks, leaving them stranded with minimal supplies for days.

Thirsty_Koala_web.jpg?w=1040&quality=70&strip=all0:32‘He’s so thirsty’: Cyclists give parched koala a drink amid severe heatwave in Australia

 ‘He’s so thirsty’: Cyclists give parched koala a drink amid severe heatwave in Australia

Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia and Northern Territory

While fires in other parts of the country are currently more severe, Queensland and other states have also been badly affected over the past several months.

Fires in Queensland first began in September 2019. As recently as mid-December, the wildfires led to emergency evacuation orders for those living by the Peregian Springs area, ABC reported.

A look at wildfires on Thursday, tracked by MyFireWatch. A look at wildfires on Thursday, tracked by MyFireWatch. A look at wildfires on Thursday, tracked by MyFireWatch. A look at wildfires on Thursday, tracked by MyFireWatch.


A look at wildfires on Thursday, tracked by MyFireWatch. A look at wildfires on Thursday, tracked by MyFireWatch.

According to BBC News, South Australia has been battling “catastrophic” conditions in its wine country. Local news outlet 9 News reported there were extreme fire danger forecasts in six districts of the region.

Australia’s Northern Territory also experienced more severe weather earlier in the wildfire season, resulting in fire bans and emergency warnings.

aussie_fire.jpg?w=1040&quality=70&strip=all2:30Australian wildfires force residents to water’s edge

 Australian wildfires force residents to water’s edge

— With files from Reuters and The Associated Pres

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Mass evacuation as catastrophic bushfires worsen in Australia

More than 6 million hectares burned, at least 23 dead and dozens missing, as fires ravage southeastern Australia.

by Kate Walton
3 hours ago
Mass evacuation as catastrophic bushfires worsen in Australia
Smoke from a fire at Batemans Bay, Australia, billows into the air on Saturday [Rick Rycroft/AP]

Canberra, Australia - Bushfires continue to ravage the south-east of Australia, with unprecedented heat and drought leading to over 200 fire fronts burning across multiple states.

The catastrophic conditions saw the country's largest peacetime evacuation take place on Friday as towns prepared for the worst.


With strong winds and temperatures of over 45 degrees Celsius across much of the region, more than 100,000 residents left evacuation zones in the three worst-affected states of New South Wales (NSW), Victoria and South Australia.

Both locals and tourists were strongly encouraged to leave by authorities, or face being stranded once access and supply routes were cut off by fire.

Twelve emergency warnings were issued in NSW and 13 in Victoria, and fire-generated thunderstorms were generated in multiple locations.


A time lapse of the pyrocumulous clouds forming above the Currowan fire this evening. It was recorded at around 7pm January 4 from Suttons Forest looking toward Bowral.
Thanks to Christopher Mortimer.#nswfires #nswrfs https://twitter.com/mortie23/status/1213376917350404097 


The fires have already burned more than 6 million hectares of land, equivalent to an area twice the size of Belgium or most of Ireland.

At least 23 people have died, dozens more are missing and at least 1,300 homes have been destroyed. Half a billion animals, including native wildlife and farm animals, are estimated to have died.

Towns on the NSW south coast were taken by surprise on New Year's Eve when a huge fire suddenly moved eastwards overnight.

On Saturday, roads were quiet and town centres deserted, but yellow-lidded recycling bins were placed outside homes to indicate where residents were staying to fight embers and spot fires.

This handout photo taken on January 4, 2020 and received from the Australian Department of Defence shows evacuees (C) disembarking from MV Sycamore at Bluescope Wharf in Hastings, Victoria state. Up t
Up to 3,000 military reservists were called up to tackle Australia's relentless bushfire crisis on Saturday as tens of thousands of residents fled their homes amid catastrophic conditions [Australian Department of Defence/Handout /AFP]

More than 20 new fires had broken out on the NSW south coast between Batemans Bay and Nowra by mid-afternoon, with flames reaching as high as 40 metres outside Nowra.

Thousands of locals took shelter in evacuation centres and on the beach as "too late to leave" warnings were issued for multiple areas. Telecommunications and electricity remain down in many of the small towns along the coast.

Canberra residents Julie and Jim Stuart left their holiday home at Mossy Point just south of Batemans Bay after days of preparation.

"Our house is on the cliff at Mossy Point," Julie Stuart told Al Jazeera. "If we had stayed, the only escape route would have been over the cliff."

"With the size of the flames and their ferociousness, there is no way we could defend our area if needed," she said. Her husband had initially wanted to stay but reconsidered after authorities warned them Mossy Point was likely "going to go".

'Completely unprecedented'

In Victoria, over 1,100 people and 115 pets were evacuated by two Australian Navy ships from the Gippsland town of Mallacoota.

They arrived in Hastings near Melbourne after sailing for 16 hours. More than 4,000 people have been isolated in Mallacoota since a massive firefront swept through on Monday night, when they were forced to shelter from the flames on the town's wharf and beach.

"It's a mass relocation of a nature which is completely unprecedented in Gippsland's history," said the local member of parliament, Darren Chester.

'Worst on record': Thousands flee as Australia's bushfires spread


In Canberra, the nation's capital, the temperature hit 43.6 degrees Celsius in the city centre on Saturday, breaking previous records from 1968 and 1969.

In one of the few positives to be found, air quality improved after two days of the world's worst air pollution according to AirVisual.

Smoke from nearby bushfires had been so bad that MRI machines at the Canberra Hospital were rendered unusable and Australia Post stopped deliveries.

Hardware and pharmaceutical shops sold out of protective face masks, while supermarkets on the capital's outskirts were emptied of food and water as locals prepared for the worst, fearing a repeat of the devastating 2003 bushfires.

In the nearby Snowy Mountains, also designated an evacuation region, ski resorts turned on their snow machines to protect infrastructure.

Fire crews were pulled out mid-afternoon from multiple areas in the Snowy Mountains as wind gusts of up to 60km/h began pushing fires rapidly forward and shooting embers far ahead of fronts. Electricity was affected in the region when the fire took out two electricity substations just before 6pm.

Troops to be deployed

Meanwhile, in the state of South Australia, a bushfire on Kangaroo Island had burned across at least 100,000 hectares of the island.

Two people were found dead in their burnt-out car, and the territories of large numbers of native animals, including endangered species such as dunnarts, bandicoots and Australia's only chlamydia-free koala population, have been ravaged.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been criticised for a slow and inadequate response to the bushfires. Morrison received a cold reception from residents of destroyed NSW town Cobargo on Friday, with locals and Rural Fire Service (RFS) firefighters refusing to shake his hand and accusing him of ignoring pleas for increased assistance prior to this fire season.

On Saturday afternoon, the federal government announced that 3,000 defence force reservists would be deployed to assist evacuation and recovery efforts. This is the first time in Australian history that a compulsory call-out has been issued for reservists.

For many Australians, both federal and state government responses were unsatisfactory. Writer Erin Riley established an online "find a bed" service for evacuees in Victoria and NSW at the end of last week when she learned just how many people needed temporary accommodation.

"Many people who have evacuated have done so with pets, or would rather stay in their community than go further away," Riley said. "We've had an overwhelming response, with almost 3000 Australians so far volunteering to open their homes."

On Saturday evening, NSW RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told the media that a southerly wind change coming through could complicate the situation overnight.

"We are getting reports of significant damage and destruction ... in a number of these different fireground locations, given the speed and ferocity at which these fires are burning," Fitzsimmons said. "And I think we do, unfortunately, need to be ready [for bad news], probably tomorrow morning."https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/01/mass-evacuation-catastrophic-bushfires-worsen-australia-200104100926275.html

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Australians obviously haven’t heard of a fire tax ! 
“ Arson, mischief and recklessness: 87 per cent of fires are man-made “ 

There are, on average, 62,000 fires in Australia every year. Only a very small number strike far from populated areas and satellite studies tell us that lightning is responsible for only 13 per cent. Not so the current fires threatening to engulf Queensland and NSW. There were no lightning strikes on most of the days when the fires first started in September. Although there have been since, these fires – joining up to create a new form of mega-fire – are almost all man-made.

About 40 per cent of fires are deliberately lit ... The Hillville fire that destroyed homes last week.

About 40 per cent of fires are deliberately lit ... The Hillville fire that destroyed homes last week. CREDIT:NICK MOIR

A 2015 satellite analysis of 113,000 fires from 1997-2009 confirmed what we had known for some time – 40 per cent of fires are deliberately lit, another 47 per cent accidental. This generally matches previous data published a decade earlier that about half of all fires were suspected or deliberate arson, and 37 per cent accidental. Combined, they reach the same conclusion: 87 per cent are man-made.

The cycles of the seasons are changing beyond that which can be explained by known forces, both ancient and modern. Every lethal wildfire since 1857 has happened at the height of summer. Until now. The size of these fires has never been seen in Australia's history this side of summer, and certainly not starting as early as September.

Seasonal changes, in part due to climate change on top of natural oscillations causing the drought and westerly winds, have some origins in man-made emissions. More directly, however, the source of ignition is human.

It's not lost on police, emergency services and firefighters at the front line that most of these fires were lit deliberately, or accidentally through recklessness, nor that they are unprecedented in their timing and ferocity. Since September, it has been a constant pattern that a few days after the fires roar through we have the first police reports that arson or recklessness was involved.

Homes and property were destroyed in Hillville.

The mix of people lighting fires always follow the same age and gender profiles: whether accidental or deliberate, half are children, a minority elderly, and the most dangerous are those aged between 30 and 60. Ninety per cent are male.

The psychosexual pyromaniac has long been relegated to dusty tomes from 1904 to the1950s. At least among those caught, the profile emerges of an odd, unintelligent person from a chaotic family, marginalised at the fringes of society and deeply involved in many types of crime, not only fire.

If I had to guess, I'd say about 10,000 arsonists lurk from the top of Queensland to the southern-most tip of Victoria, but not all are active and some light fires during winter. The most dangerous light fires on the hottest days, generally closer to communities and during other blazes, suggesting more malicious motives. Only a tiny minority will gaze with wonder at the destruction they have wrought, deeply fascinated and empowered. Others get caught up with the excitement of chaos and behave like impulsive idiots.


As for children, they are not always malicious. Children and youths follow the age-crime curve where delinquency peaks in their late teens. Fire is just one of many misbehaviours. The great majority grow out of it. Four overlapping subgroups include: accidental fire-play getting out of control; victims of child abuse – including sexual abuse – and neglect; children with autism and developmental disorders; and conduct disorder from a younger age, which can be genuinely dangerous.

The arrest comes days after parts of the state were ravaged by bushfires.

Whereas the first three groups can be helped and stopped, the last is more problematic. These children are more likely to continue lighting fires for a lifetime, emerging as psychopaths in adulthood. This tends to match the finding that only 10 per cent of convicted arsonists will go on to light fires again after prison. They are the recidivists, more fascinated by fire, more prone to giving in to dangerous urges when in crisis, more impulsive, less empathic – the hallmarks of a psychopath.

Some research suggests only a very small percentage of arsonists are ever caught, which has several implications.
One is that we have a biased profile of who they really are. Whereas the children and the dopey get caught, the more cunning would be less represented in our samples. More ominous, many more than 10,000 arsonists might be active.

One of the few prospective studies of almost 3000 fire lighters in South Australia alone found as many as 14 per cent of people in a community sample lit fires. This level is much higher than actual convictions would suggest. Further to this, community sampling suggests females represent 20 per cent of those fire lighters, even though convictions of females are only half this figure. If this trend continues into adulthood, it suggests we have a biased view of the typical arsonist to begin with.


Those we haven't caught yet are still hiding, but we know enough to recognise them and, one day, maybe stop them.

In the thick of a deadly crisis, it beggars belief that some people would seek to make it worse. But we should be careful who we demonise. Not all children mean to do harm. Careful handling of them will reduce, not exacerbate, their problems and allow caregivers to refer them before the first match is struck.

Emergency services and communities on the front line will shine a light on the very best of humanity; others will disgrace themselves through idiocy or malice. Amid the chaos of confronting fires, the psychopath forever looms – not only the criminals who light fires in the forests and grasslands but perhaps also, figuratively, the people who profit from planetary destruction and ignore the urgent warnings of 23 emergency commissioners to prepare.

When the flames abate, we can have a sensible national dialogue about the prevention of wildfires, handling arson, and maybe even climate change.

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