Australian Fires 2019-2020

January 11, 2020 | By Colin | Filed in: Musings and Ideas for Discussion, Thought Leadership.

Australian Fires 2019-2020

I was having a conversation, the other day with an American friend who was quite worried about my welfare. (Thanks Mark – much appreciated – I am very grateful for friends like you even all the way around the other side of the world).

He was hoping that we were OK and safe from the fires etc in Australia in January 2020.

It seemed that the media was reporting that Victoria (The Australian State in which I live) had been evacuated.

Evacuation of Victoria

Malacoota FireHmmmmm. This is actually not likely nor possible. It is very hard for us living in vastly different countries to understand the various sizes and other attributes involved.

Let’s have a look.

The Size Situation

Victoria, the smallest mainland state in Australia, is approx 92,000 sq Miles in area. This is just a little bit smaller than the American State of Oregon, and a little bit less than twice the size of New York State. Victoria has one major city, a few smaller cities, approx 10 minor cities, some hundreds of large country towns and settlements, (I live in a town of 4,500 people some 2.5 – 3 hours drive from Melbourne the major city). And there are LOTS of smaller settlements, farms and (hamlets shall we call them?) all over the place.

New York State has a population of just under 20 million people, whereas Victoria has approx 6.4 million. So you can see mass evacuations would really not be likely. We could move people around a bit if really necessary, but evacuations – in general, No.

Current Fire Situation

The current fire situation on my side of this huge country is mainly in the State of NSW and the North East of Victoria (near where I live – about 30% of the small State and mostly in uninhabited mountain or hard to access country) and spreads toward the Eastern Seaboard. But it is still not an issue here apart from a lot of smoke that comes and goes. Not yet. It may become so before the season concludes at the end of February.

Now while this is nothing short of catastrophic in so far as the amount of bush or forest, that has burned, (an estimated 26 million acres; 107,000 square kms; 41,000 sq miles - that’s approx the size of New York State again); it has destroyed over 5,900 buildings (including over 2,204 homes) and killed 28 people as of 8 January 2020, there is more. (Note that with our population density so low – 28 people is a LOT.) And it is ongoing.

Animals

The biggest issue is an estimated 1 billion animals that have been killed and some endangered species may have been driven to extinction.

Perspective

Arguments as to causes and mitigation strategies, political or otherwise, are not my concern here. But hopefully, this puts things into perspective.

Navy

However, not in my 70 or so years down here at the bottom of the globe, have I heard of Navy ships being called in to evacuate a whole town (which was almost completely destroyed by the way) from the beach/sea where the residents had all congregated in an attempt to stay alive.

I guess that was a mass evacuation. Normally 1,063 people live in that town increasing to about 10,000 during the Summer (Christmas) holiday season.

No one there now. They are all at emergency stations in Melbourne.

Facts

Often the media doesn’t take into account all the facts. Sometimes they don’t know all of the facts. Consume with care.


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