Australian Bushfires


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Bushfires happen in Australia every year.

About 50 million hectares of land are burned across Australia each year on average.
About 80% of fire-affected areas are in northern savanna regions.
Lightning is the cause of almost all naturally occurring bushfires.
Human activities account for most of the rest, with between 25 to 50% of bushfires being thought to be deliberately lit.

Australian State Premiers, together with their Emergency Services Ministers, are responsible for overseeing the Bushfire fighting activities in Australia.

In January 2020 the Australian Federal Government established a National Bushfire Recovery Agency to work closely with the states and territories to rebuild homes and critical infrastructure destroyed in the bushfires.

Related Bushfire Posts

Bushfires in Australia CSIRO Submission

A selection of comments from the 44 pages of the 2009 Senate Inquiry into Bushfires in Australia, CSIRO Submission 09/355.

Summary

  • About 50 million hectares of land are burned across Australia each year on average and about 80% of fire-affected areas are in northern savanna regions.
  • Lightning is the cause of almost all naturally occurring bushfires.
  • Human activities account for most of the rest with accidents associated with burning off, campfires and machinery being the most common sources of ignition.
  • While it is difficult to assess the magnitude of maliciously lit fires, between 25 to 50% of bushfires are thought to be deliberately lit.
  • Bushfires account for about 10 percent of the cost of all major natural disasters in Australia, and are associated with the greatest loss of life.
  • The loss of 173 lives in the Feb 2009 Victorian bushfires was the highest suffered in any Australian bushfire.
  • Climate change information summarised in this submission suggests there will be increasing risks of similar ‘Catastrophic’ fire-weather in the future.

The impact of bushfires

Section 1.2 The impact of bushfires on human and animal life, agricultural land, the environment, public and private assets and local communities.

Across Australia for the period 1997 to 2003, an average area of 54.5 million hectares was burned each year with 80% of fire-affected areas being located in the tropical grassy woodland savanna regions.
Up to 50% of the northern Australian landscape may be burnt in any given year, and most areas burn at least once every three years.

Factors contributing to bushfires

Section 1.3 Factors contributing to the causes and risks of bushfires across Australia.

Lightning is the cause of almost all naturally occurring bushfires.
For example, the Department of Sustainability and Environment (Victoria) estimate that 26% of bushfires on public land are caused by lighting strikes.
Prosecutions relating to maliciously lit fires are rarely obtained, so it is difficult to assess their magnitude. However, Willis (2005) has reviewed bushfire arson and he estimated that generally between 25 and 50% of bushfires are deliberately lit.

Impacts of bushfires

Section 6.2 Impacts of bushfires on biodiversity

Fire has been a factor in the Australian landscape for millions of years.
However, conditions changed with the arrival of Aborigines more than 40,000 years ago.
Indigenous Australians certainly burned some parts of the landscape, but the extent and frequency of burning, along with their impacts on native plants and animals are poorly understood.
Conditions changed even more dramatically with European settlement in 1788.

Source:  CSIRO Submission 09/355. Bushfires in Australia. Prepared for the 2009 Senate Inquiry into Bushfires in Australia. July 2009  [PDF 44 page document]

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