Australian fires “unprecedented” says former Barrie resident now living in Australia

Little government support for firefighters

Rachel Hartley traded her home in Central Ontario in 2017 for another on the southeast coast of Australia.

From Barrie to Melbourne.

From a clear blue sky to one now filled with smoke from relentless wildfires.

She says the southeast coast of Australia is literally on fire.

In Melbourne, the issue is smoke, but outside the big cities, Hartley says entire towns have been wiped out, animals have died, and people have lost their houses and businesses.

Related: Australian fires may have killed half a billion animals and plants

“I think that people who live in places prone to bushfire might understand the severity of it, but I think the average person would have no idea how serious the situation is. The fires are completely unprecedented and multiple states of emergency have had to be declared in the last few months. We have fires that are twice the size of Brussels in landmass, and the fires have burnt through about 12,000,000 acres of land.”

In a Facebook post in early December Hartley noted, “There was a team of firefighters who were at one point fighting a fire front that was 6,000km long (roughly the distance you’d cover going all the way from Vancouver Island to Halifax, Nova Scotia).”

She can’t say enough about the efforts of the firefighters, some of whom have travelled from Canada to help.

She cannot say the same of local politicians.

“The biggest issue I see with the different state governments (mostly Victoria and New South Wales) is that funding for firefighters was recently cut, which means less resources for controlled burns to lessen potential impact of a bushfire. Federally, our Prime Minister does not believe climate change exists and also appears not to understand how severe the situation is. People are really frustrated mostly with our PM, but also with state governments as they were slow to come to the aid of the local firefighters — many of which are volunteers and not paid for the work they do.”

In terms of how you can help, Hartley says you don’t have to be there to be helpful. Local Country Fire Authorities and charities like The Salvation Army Australia and Australian Red Cross need both monetary donations and donations of supplies.

The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital is accepting donations to develop and build watering stations for thirsty koalas on theirĀ GoFundMe page.

images via Rachel Hartley/Facebook