Teen Firefighter Charged With Setting Some Australian Wildfires

Katie Ramirez
January 8, 2020

Rural Fire Services Commissioner Fitzsimmons: "Hazard reduction burning is really challenging and the single biggest impediment to completing hazard reduction burning is the weather".

Original reports suggested that 500 million animals had already perished in the blazes, and WWF-Australia now estimates that number is higher than one billion.

"Police will allege in court that the man lit the fire and left the area before returning to respond to the fire as part of his duties as a volunteer firefighter", a police statement read, according to the South China Morning Post.

The catastrophic bushfires have been fuelled by a crippling drought that has turned forests to tinder and exacerbated by climate change, which scientists say is increasing the length and intensity of Australia's fire season. Australia's fires have so far burned more than 12 million acres-an area approximately the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined-and are being considered the worst wildfires in its history.

The three main cities in Australia's southeast, Sydney, Melbourne and the capital Canberra, were filled with thick smoke, placing them among the most polluted cities in the world. Australian authorities have requested another 140 personnel, who are expected in the next two weeks. Authorities also warned about online donation scams.

Smoke from wildfires has drifted across the Pacific and affected cities in South America, and may have reached the Antarctic, the U.N. World Meteorological Organization said.

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"Leave, and leave early", Victoria police minister Lisa Neville urged those in the danger zone. "The rallies on Friday are going ahead", it said on Facebook.

Around 2,300 firefighters in New South Wales state were making the most of relatively benign conditions by frantically consolidating containment lines around more than 110 blazes and patrolling for lightning strikes, state Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.

Moody's Analytics said the cost of fires could easily surpass the deadly 2009 Black Saturday fires that destroyed 450,000 hectares of land at an estimated toll of A$4.4 billion. All fires were at the "tips" level, the lowest alarm rating. Victoria had 40 fires with 13 "watch and act" alerts.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has pledged A$2 billion ($1.37 billion) to a newly created National Bushfire Recovery Agency.

Prince Charles, who is next in line to become the British monarch and king of Australia, said in a video message from Scotland that he and his wife Camilla had been in despair watching the infernos burn across Australia.

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