Over 100 wildfires have devastated the Australian territories of Queensland and New South Wales this year; fires that began in September continued to burn into the new year, turning hundreds of miles of the outback to ash and killing an estimated 1 billion animals, according to Vox. The New York Times reports the confirmed death count of seventeen people, and hundreds remain missing. For Australia, the future remains uncertain; here in the United States, there is still time to make a difference.
Marty Mood, an aerial tanker pilot flying the 737 Firebomber for the Australian firefighting efforts, tells Inside15000, “We can drop up to 4000 gallons of retardant or firefighting gel… typically, we drop retardant, which can last for over a week, in what is called an indirect operation further out from the actual fire in an attempt to make long term containment lines. Gel is more short term, and we usually drop it directly into the fire line to try to immediately douse the fire or knock it down enough to allow firefighters on the ground to gain advantage.” In regards to the future of the population in light of the devastation, Mood says, “The Australian people are hearty and strong, and they will eventually recover. With help, those who have been the most affected will rebuild. I think the largest effect from the widespread fires is going to be on the native wildlife. Australia is home to some of the most unique animals and ecosystems in the world. Koalas, in particular, have been impacted and are very difficult to relocate and/or rehabilitate, and estimates are that over half the population of koalas in Australia have been wiped out.” Stopping the fires will require much more than the firefighters themselves, however, as the supplies needed to support such an extensive recovery effort are expensive. “As with any large scale natural disaster, the help and support of others can greatly speed the recovery effort and provide much-needed supplies,” says Mood. “They will need help to continue to fund the battle to contain these fires, and also rebuild all that has been lost.”
The Australian Red Cross is one organization working to fund the restoration and halt the fires. Recommended as a reliable service for purposes of donation by many Australians, the Red Cross has been funding and fulfilling efforts to support populations impacted by the disaster. According to their website, “Red Cross teams have been supporting people at evacuation and relief centers, registering people so their loved ones can contact them, providing psychological first aid to reduce trauma and distress, providing food, water, and relief items to people cut off by fires in Victoria, conducting welfare checks on the phone and in-person, and providing emergency grants to people who have lost homes to bushfires.” For anyone hoping to help recovery efforts, the Red Cross is a viable option.
“Australia, like the rest of the world, has had its hottest year on record,” says Rose Geary, who was traveling from Canberra, the nation’s capital, to Western Australia at the time that the severity of the wildfires began to escalate. In an effort to avoid the devastating effects of the fires, Geary explains, her family was stranded in South Australia as they attempted to relocate to their new posting. “Before we left Canberra, we experienced the heavy blanketing of smoke from the fires – our capital city currently has the worst air quality of any city in the world – due to the ongoing constant bushfires surrounding it… While we were traveling, we saw extensive areas of our beautiful country absolutely devastated by the fires – so horrible… Friends of ours were on the coast for New Year’s Eve and they ended up in the evacuation centers with people who had lost everything.” For people living in affected areas, simply staying in their homes can be a matter of life and death.
As fires progress, it is important that firefighting forces are equipped with necessary supplies and that civilians are provided aid in escaping and recovering from the devastation. For people in other countries, it can seem impossible to make a significant contribution to the cause. However, every donation to a reputable charity supporting the recovery effort is a donation that will go towards the rehabilitation of impacted people and wildlife. For Bobcats looking to help, donation information is available on the official website of the Australian Red Cross.