An Australian "fire-tornado". Photo by Chris Tangey
03 Jan 2020

The Australian devastation shows wildfires are becoming a global concern

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The wildfires in Australia continued to rage over the holidays: Allegedly more than five million hectares of land nation wide, at least 17 human lives and almost half a billion animals have already been destroyed - which raises enough of an international concern that overseas countries like the US and Canada on Wednesday decided to send their own firefighters to help the situation. 

According to several international media, the Australian wildfires are now several times larger than the catastrophic California wildfires in 2018. Although the death toll in human lives are still lower than some of the most deadly ones in recent years, the size and intensity of the Australian wildfires are unprecedented in areas co-habited by humans. 

The ecological and humanitarian ramifications are huge: according to some international media, the smoke emissions from the Australian fires are so intense that they are effectively staining the Antarctica glaciers brown, causing them to melt even faster (since white snow more effectively reflects radiant heat back into the atmosphere).

Other devastating fires where large areas of forested lands were destroyed during 2019 have been the fires in the Amazon, and the remote northern wildfires in Siberia. 

 

Comparison chart from Statista.com of the largest wildfires during 2018 and 2019. Please observe that this graph used acres to measure land  areas, whereas the fire services of New South Wales uses hectares.

Comparison chart from Statista.com of the largest wildfires during 2018 and 2019. Please observe that this graph uses the term "millions of acres" to measure land areas, whereas the fire services of New South Wales uses "millions of hectares" - hence the apparent discrepancy between the actual numbers referred to. 

 

- While wildfires have been escalating worldwide in the last few years, most fire services´ability to tackle the wildfires have not significantly improved.

- While scientists may be still arguing over the degree to which human activities are affecting climate change, the wildfires are real, and since a few years back, they are apparently increasing in overall intensity.

- Since wildfires destroy primarily trees and other living vegetation, Earth´s ability to absorb CO2 in the atmosphere decreases by every large wildfire not effectively extinguished.Therefor, wild fire fighting is possibly about to become a global concern transgressing traditional national borders.

 

Tell us your thoughts!

What do you think should be done by the global community to tackle wildfires large enough that they become too large for an individual country to handle? Do you have any innovations in wildfire tactics, equipment or additives that you would like to share with our international firefighting community here on CTIF.org? What can each fire service do individually and what do we need do together?

Write to us and tell us your your opinion, story, tactics or thoughts!

By Björn Ulfsson, editor of CTIF NEWS

 

Here´s some of what international media have been writing over the holidays: 

According to British Daily Mail,  the Rural Fire Services has confirmed 3.1million hectares of New South Wales bushland had been burnt in the second half of 2019. While bushfire threat levels have eased over Christmas, there are still 79 fires burning in the state with 40 still to be contained.

According to Canadian CBC News, Australia deployed military ships and aircraft on Wednesday to help communities ravaged by deadly wildfires that have sent thousands of residents and tourists fleeing to the shoreline. Authorities have urged a mass exodus from several towns on Australia's southeast coast, an area that is hugely popular in the current summer peak holiday season, warning that extreme heat forecast for the weekend will further stoke raging fires.

According to UK Updates, an Estimated 500 million animals are feared to have died in the wildfires sweeping Australia including nearly a third of the koalas in New South Wales. Ecologists at the University of Sydney estimate around 500 million mammals, birds and reptiles have been killed, directly or indirectly, by the devastating blazes since they began in September. This includes almost 8,000 koalas, which are believed to have burnt to death on the state’s mid-north coast.

On Thursday, Australia’s military began evacuating thousands from the country’s east coast, which has been the hardest hit by wildfires.

Global News writes that at least 17 people have been killed since the fires started in October and another 17 are reported missing, according to Australian officials. More than 1,400 homes and buildings have been destroyed, and roughly five million hectares (12.35 million acres) of land have burned nationwide.

Authorities say nearly 400 homes have been destroyed on New South Wales’ southern coast and at least eight people have died this week in the state and in neighbouring Victoria, where more than 200 fires are currently burning.

 

 

Cover Photo and Video of a fire tornado in the Australian wildfires 2019 -  By Chris Tangey