Updated Feb 1, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Australia's deadly fires: What you need to know

The Australian flag flies under red skies from fires on Jan. 4 in Bruthen, Victoria. Photos: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

The Orroral Valley fire has burned through nearly 25% of the district that's home to Australia's capital, News.com.au reports, after ACT Emergency Controller Georgeina Whelan said the fire was rapidly growing into the south east on Saturday.

The latest: The Orroral fire grew from 81,544 acres to at least 129,073 acres on Saturday, based on Whelan's initial statement, and ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr's following estimate. Whelan said the Orroral fire is expected to move "well into" New South Wales, which creates potential for it to reach and merge with other bushfires in the area.

"My fire crews may not be able to protect you and your property. You should not expect a firefighter at every door."
— Whelan on Saturday, urging residents to remain vigilant and take action to protect themselves.

The impact: Since September, hundreds of bushfires have raged across Australia, killing at least 33 people — including three U.S. airmen, who died fighting fires when their air tanker crashed in the Snowy Mountains, NSW, last Thursday.

  • Over 1 billion native animals have perished in the blazes, which have destroyed some 2,500 homes and a total land area one-third of the size of California, per Reuters.
  • Three New South Wales firefighters were injured when a tree fell on to their truck while managing a massive fire in the Australian Capital Territory, per the Stawell Times.

Political response: NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told a news conference Thursday the state would launch a six-month independent inquiry this week to examine the causes of the fires, how prepared the state was and its response, along with contributing factors including climate change.

  • Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Jan. 12 of plans for a judicial inquiry into the country's wildfires as he admitted there were "things I could have handled on the ground much better."
  • Morrison has faced criticism over his leadership during the deadly fire season since he went on vacation as much of the country burned in December. He's also been criticized for his government's climate policies.

U.S. support: The American firefighters who died were among several U.S. crews who've been fighting bushfires and assisting with response alongside Australian personnel in New South Wales and Victoria this month, along with the Australian Defense Force and some 3,000 Defense Force Reservists.

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Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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Australia honors U.S. airmen who died fighting fires

A memorial for the U.S. crew who died in the fiery crash in Australia's Snowy Mountains. Photo: New South Wales Rural Fire Service/Twitter

A memorial service was held at the Royal Australian Air Force base in Richmond, New South Wales, Thursday for three members of a U.S. aircrew who died while fighting bushfires when their air tanker crashed in the state's Snowy Mountains last week.

The big picture: Capt. Ian MacBeth, First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson, and Flight Engineer Rick DeMorgan Jr. died last Thursday when the Lockheed C-130 Hercules, operated by the Canadian company Coulson Aviation, crashed in the Snowy Mountains. A crowdfunding page to support their families had raised nearly $20,000 by 1:15am ET Thursday.

Go deeper: Australia's deadly fires: What you need to know

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113 animal species need urgent help after Australia's bushfires

Humane Society specialists check an injured Koala rescued from South Australia's Kangaroo Island fires on Jan. 15. Photo: Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Images

113 animal species need an "emergency intervention" to help support their recovery after they lost at least 30% of their habitat to Australia's bushfires — and many lost substantially more than that.

Details: That's according to a report released by Australia's Environment Department, which consulted a panel of experts to identify species in need of urgent help — including the koala.

Australia fires: "Widespread devastation across the ecosystem"

Myalls, an orphaned red-necked wallaby joey, has been recovering well in WIRES' care since being treated for burns. Photo: WIRES

The bush has fallen silent on the New South Wales South Coast of Australia. Massive fires swept through over the new year and pockets remain. Firefighters are still trying to contain blazes in some places. Elsewhere, the land is smoldering.

The impact: The deadly fires have caused "widespread devastation across the ecosystem," according to Kasey Harris, a volunteer with Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service (WIRES), an NSW charity.