Sunburnt Country or Country on Fire?

Australia’s Fire Crisis

For many years now, Australia has been enduring severe drought and rising temperatures. Apart from Antarctica, Australia is the driest continent in the world. About 35% of our sunburnt country receives such little rain, it is effectively a desert. This long-running drought across New South Wales and Queensland has left the east of Australia extremely dry and flammable. Hot temperatures and strong winds have sparked over 99 fires running simultaneously across the two states in the last 2 weeks. To put this into perspective – When the amazon rainforest went up in flames, it burnt 125,000 hectares. Australia so far, has lost 970,000 hectares and its proving to only be getting worse.

We want to help shine some light on how serious these fires are and what we can do to help those in need and look at how we can be prepared in case an emergency happens in your area.

Fire fighters will perform the safe burning of parts of the forests or bush to keep fires under control, this is known as fuel reduction. What this means is that when a bushfire starts there will be less fuel (wood, trees, grass etc) to burn. This burning has good benefits also. For example, some plants need smoke to help them reproduce. This controlled burning also allows animals to move to un-burnt places.

If your home is being threatened by bushfires, here are some things you could do to prepare:

· Block up all doorways and windows so there are no draughts

· Use a hose to spray down the sides of you houses

· Block the downpipes leading from the roof sprouting with rags or tennis balls and fill the sprouting gutters with water

· Connect a sprinkler to a garden hose and put it on the roof of your house

· Turn off power and gas supply

· Fill up all baths and sinks with water.

If your area has an emergency evacuation in place its best to follow all instructions and not take any chances. You can prepare a box of personal belongings that is easily accessible for you to grab and go if you are evacuated. It’s best to leave this box in your garage or somewhere near your car. Another important thing to remember is if you have animals that require boxes or crates to travel then have those close by also.

Many animals such as kangaroos, wallabies, emus and deer will run and jump to escape the flames. Other animals such as mice, rats, snakes, lizards and wombats escape by burrowing or escaping into burrows. Ants too, shelter deep in the earth and will often survive a fire. Mature birds can fly to a safer area but nesting birds cannot escape. A harsh reality of bushfires is many animals will not survive.

One animal in particular that has had its habitat decimated by fires is our beloved Koala. As many as 350 koalas are estimated to have died in recent fires that tore through the Port Macquarie region, home to one of the state’s biggest koala populations. The blaze has devastated the Lake Innes Nature Reserve, which has a colony of up to 600 koalas. Koala’s are already on the “functionally extinct” list. This means that a koala living today might have one joey and that joey may or may not have a joey, if they don’t, that’s functionally extinct. Its estimated that there’s fewer than 16-18,000 koalas in the whole of New South Wales, so to lose a population of that size is disastrous.

So how can we all help? How can we contribute to those who need it the most? A range of organisations are asking for financial aid to assist people, communities and wildlife affected by the fires. These fires are testing the resources of firefighters, charities and animal rescue groups. Organisations are calling for financial donations – rather than donated goods – to help them best supply the varying needs of the victims and wildlife.

The NSW rural fire service – accepts direct financial contributions. Local RFS brigades reply on the contributions and volunteers to sustain their efforts.

The Salvation Army – the salvation army has launched a disaster appeal to help support evacuees and emergency services during this crisis.

The Australian Red Cross - Red Cross volunteers are at evacuation centres providing psychological first aid and helping evacuees get in touch with families and friends. More than 60 Red Cross volunteers are supporting people at 16 evacuation centres across New South Wales.

Wildlife Rescue and Recovery – Port Macquarie Koala Hospital has a very successful GoFundMe campaign which is helping rescue koalas affected by the fires.

Wires Wildlife Rescue – Wires are a wildlife information, rescue and education service. They have been rescuing and caring for wildlife in New South Wales.

THF Team