Bushfires are common in Australia, particularly during the summer. The hot weather in various states likes New South Wales can trigger bushfires and cause damage to property and the environment, and loss of lives. Each year, over $300 million is lost to these damaging fires, not to mention the number of animals that die and suffer from loss of their natural habitat.
In most instances, the fires occur naturally. For example, when lightning strikes and the energy ignites extremely dry leaves and twigs. However, there are a few rare instances when humans cause fires, either deliberately or by accident.
Bushfires can happen at any time and spread rapidly. If the affected area is littered with a lot of flammable materials, the fire can burn on for days and spread to neighbouring communities.
Here are three of the worst recorded bushfires in history.
Called the Black Tuesday event, this bushfire happened on February 7, 1967. It left 62 people dead, injured 900 others and rendered 7,000 homeless.
It ravaged Southern Tasmania in just over five hours and decimated more than 2,500 square kilometres of land. It razed down bridges, power lines and buildings, and killed 62,000 domesticated animals. The total damage was estimated at $40 million.
South Australia and Victoria, 1983
This bushfire happened on February 16, 1983, ripping apart Southeast Australia. The weather was an unbelievably hot day, causing more than 180 bushfires to erupt in a span of 12 hours. The fires affected South Australia and Victoria, killing 75 people.
Most of the fatalities died in the firestorm, which normally happens during bushfires and forest fires. Over 385,000 animals died, and the damage was estimated at $400 million.
So far, the worst recorded bushfire incident in history is called the Black Saturday bushfire in Victoria on February 7, 2009. It damaged $4.4 billion worth of properties and claimed the lives of 173 people. Another 400 people were injured, and more than 2,000 homes were decimated.
The series of fires is considered as one of Australia’s worst natural disasters on record. The bushfires severely damaged towns in Melbourne, leaving over 7,000 residents displaced.
Be on the Lookout
Residents living in high-risk communities have become extra alert as summer approaches. Besides initiating clean-up drives and clearing open spaces of flammable materials, residents have taken it upon themselves to invest in fire fighting equipment and machines.
Communities in Australia have fire fighting trailers, which can easily be attached to utility vehicles. These trailers are specifically designed to put out bushfires efficiently. They can carry up to 2,500 litres of water. This way, residents can work fast and prevent the fires from spreading to residential and commercial areas in case the firefighters can’t arrive on the scene quickly.
The communities also train volunteer firefighters on the proper way of using the trailers and how to protect themselves when fighting bushfires. Safety is still the top priority. Preventing fires and keeping everyone in the community safe from bushfires is a combined effort. The government can’t do it alone, so the communities have pitched in to help.