What’s Been Happening in Australia
Australians, as casual as we are, we tend to understate things. We say have a few dangerous animals, but in reality, we have a lot that can kill you and they are everywhere.
Likewise, at the moment Australia have a couple of fires. In reality we have a lot and they are kicking butt. At this stage it is easier to tell you that the Northern Territory is not on fire, because every other state is battling fires and the affects.
Across Australia, fire authorities report over 5.1 MILLION hectares have been burned. An area the size of Costa Rica. To add further perspective, the 2019 California wildfires destroyed a total area just over 180,000 hectares, just one fire in Shoalhaven has already consumed 258,967 hectares and is out of control.
Since September, the bushfires across Australia have taken 18 lives and 1000+ homes. Many people are reported missing. Ecologists report that a suggested 480 Million animals have also be lost.OPEN GALLERYIn New South Wales (NSW) the Currowan fire is only one of many that is tearing its way along the east coast. This is a holiday destination, which people are being told to leave now before Saturday when conditions are going to be worse. As yet, we don’t have a name for worse than the current OFFICIAL rating of ‘catastrophic’, but that is what they are predicting. Today the NSW premier has declared another week long state of emergency. The evacuation has been called the “largest relocation of the region ever’.
So that’s one state… there are fires in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. Whilst in Victoria they have similar situation with holiday destinations being hit hard. The Navy have sent a vessel to extract the 3,000-4,000 people trapped on the beach. All roads are blocked by dangerous fires. There is no power, no communication, little food or water and a shortage of fuel for generators. But they have their community to help them now and the wider community – us – to help them where we can.OPEN GALLERYAnd help we will, because it is affecting everyone…
Although the Australian capital, Canberra, (my home town) is not in threat of fire the smoke has blown into town and it is described as looking like the start of an apocalypse. The air quality ranking on Thursday is makes it the worst global city in the world. The smoke blanket coating the capital being so unbearable that its closed down Canberras largest university campus. Peaking at a score of 1086 in Monash, an extremely hazardous rating triggering asthma attacks and panic. Other areas on fire have ratings such as 1700 and beyond. Not only have the fires devastated lives, wildlife and homes – its are hurting the very stuff they breathe!OPEN GALLERY
How To Support
Support the RFS (Rural Fire Service)
You can support the brave RFS volunteer firefighters that are protecting Australia in many ways. One of the best ways at this current time is to donate money. You can do this by sending cheques, bank deposits and direct donation boxes spread across Australia. Find out more here. If you wish to crowdfund for the RFS they also offer some great ideas on this page.
Volunteering with the RFS is as an option and details can be discovered here for NSW, other states online.OPEN GALLERY
Donation of Goods
There are many support teams working tirelessly to send in-valuable food, water and toiletry supplies to the hard working firefighting volunteers and effected families across the country. They are collecting items such as canned/easy to eat foods, water bottles, gatorade, toiletries like hotel soaps, shampoos, sanitary pads, face masks, toilet paper, eye drops and much more. All groups have shopping lists of required items and list drop off points for donations. These groups include but are not limited to Slabs For Heroes (Canberra and surrounds), Sydney Fire Support Team and Western Sydney – Help a Fire Volunteer.
Flight attendants visiting Australia can help too. I have been collecting my hotel toiletries like shampoos, soaps, conditioners over the last month or two which I have arranged to donate during my scheduled flight to Sydney this week. These items will most likely be distributed at an evacuation centre for those who require hygiene products after leaving their homes. Find the drop off points at the above links.OPEN GALLERY
Supporting Affected Families
Charity BlazeAid focus on collecting donations to support communities rebuilding after bushfires. This includes fencing and other structures. This hits home as my grandma lost part of her house in 2003.
Other trusted Australian charities have also started bushfire donation appeals such as The Red Cross Foundation, St Vincent De Paul Society(Vinnies), and The Salvation Army. These charities have been providing hot meals, rebuilding grants, support at evacuation centre, firefighter aid and more.
You can even donate directly to the families of the firefighters whom were tragically lost these recent months fighting the blaze. Find the direct deposit bank details here.OPEN GALLERY
You may not have the medical expertise to assist fire victims, but you can play a vital role by being a donor. All you need to be is between 18-75 years old, weigh 50kg or more and be fit and healthy. (no medical degree required)
Both blood and plasma are required in the treatment of serious burns. Find out more about how your donation can save lives here.
Ecologists from the University of Sydney have reported estimates that over 480 Million animals lives may have been lost in the devastation of our bushfires this year. In the same report, they estimate that nearly a 3rd of the entire Koala population in the state of New South Wales has been lost. Koalas are a native Australian marsupial that are slow moving. They live amongst the highly flammable eucalyptus trees of dense Australian bushland. The rescuing of this species in particular is crucial to the survival of the Koala population.
Support the rehabilitation and recovery of Koalas by donating to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital here.OPEN GALLERYYou can also support Australian native wildlife by putting your creativity to the test. The Rescue Collective have created two Facebook groups called the Makers Guild and the Craft Guild. Both focus on using creative skills to create resources for our native animals in rehabilitation and out of homes this bushfire season. Find sewing patterns for bat wraps, Joey pouches, koala mittens and more on the Craft Guild group. My mother has made some fine bat wraps! If your clever with carpentry the Makers Guild focus on building possum & bird boxes, water dispensers and joey stands. OPEN GALLERY
Tips – Living In Fire Prone Areas
I have put together some tips based on RFS information and health advice for those living in fire prone areas to help reduce the risk of fire spread, animal and human safety and health. This may only be of importance if you are living in Australia right now.
Deterring Further Fire Spread
- Do not let off any fireworks.
- Report any new fires you see to your local fire department so they can be tackled effectively and immediately before it escalates to a large blaze. Keep updated on the local fires n ear you using the RFS ‘Fires Near Me’ app, or this web page.
- Do not light any fires/bonfires/cooking fires, especially in areas that are sensitive to a bushfire outbreak. Before you light, always check if there is a fire ban in place.
- If you smoke, do not throw your cigarette butts out the window and ensure they are properly distinguished. I would suggest getting an ash bucket for your car you can find them in most $2 shops. Cheaper than a $1320 fine during a total fire ban. If you want to report a butt chucker.
Keeping Safe & Protecting Your Home
- When driving through thick smoke use your hazard lights to avoid crashes as visibility will be extremely low. Drive at a speed appropriate to the conditions. If the fire has arrived, it’s already too late. Leaving early is your safest option.
- Learn your local ABC radio station number for updates on shelters, closed roads, blockages and resource centres.
- Avoid camping in rural areas. Rescuing you if your trapped in a blaze would be a noble effort but it would sure take a lot of resources. Your safety and fire fighters safety needs to be paramount. Australian bushland in summer is an extremely high risk area.
- If you live close to a major fire, prepare your home using these RFS NSW tips. This includes clearing your gutters of twigs and leaves, mowing your lawn short, checking your home insurance, making and communicating your evacuation plan with loved ones and setting your decision points for when you are going to leave.
- Avoid visiting fire affected areas that are heavily ablaze during bushfire season. I know it puts a damper on holiday plans but the congested traffic can make it extremely difficult for the firies to do their job or instigate an evacuation. Not only this, but you put yourself at high risk. If you absolutely must travel during the fire season, it is wise to follow these tips. And check your fuel gauge, the availability of fuel in fire affected areas is extremely limited.
- Have an evacuation plan and know when to enact it. Tips for staying with your home or leaving can both be found here.
- Brush up on your fire safety knowledge from high school. If you are catch on fire, stop, drop and roll to extinguish. If your caught in a house fire, stay low, cover your face and crawl if you know of an available exit. Call 000. ZERO-ZERO-ZERO. in Australia. Tell them ‘house fire’ straight away and await instruction.
- Be aware that, in the current situation, firies are busy and the priority is lives.
Health Concerns & Wildlife Support
- Canberra is currently ranked as the city with the world’s worst air quality at the moment. Levels are hazardous. Wearing a mask outdoors can help you from breathing in toxic smoke which may bring on breathing difficulties.
- Do not go running, cycling or commit to any exercise outdoors through hazardous smoke areas. We require much more oxygen when exercising and the air quality can trigger breathing difficulties and asthma.
- Carry around your puffer if you are known to experience asthma.
- Hanging wet towels in your home is one strategy to reduce the smoke scent for those suffering.
- Leave out water for animals in that may wander into your neighbourhood. Air pollution is devastating and dehydration and breathing difficulties can be a death sentence to many wildlife or wandering domestic pets. This small deed could make a big difference!
- Alert your local wildlife protection agency if you notice animals with injuries, including burnt paws or nocturnal animals outside during the day.
- Driving through fires during any evacuation it is recommended to wear masks or breathe through any ventilating material you may have such as towels. We used the wet towels from swimming lessons during the 2003 Canberra bushfires.
- Keep pets inside as much as possible. Particularly small animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, baby animals and so forth. Their lungs may not be able to support breathing in such hazardous, polluted air which can result in death.
- Have an evacuation plan for your pets. Not just horses, but small animals and dogs too – they can be frightened in an evacuation situation and run.
To read more on the Australian bushfires and the change down under has experienced in climate, click here.