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Natural Hazards – Bushfires Essay

A natural hazard is a natural event that has a significantly negative effect on people or the environment. Many natural hazards are related. For example drought can lead to famine and earthquakes can form tsunamis and landslides. Australia’s most common natural hazards are storms, cyclones, floods, droughts, heatwaves and bushfires. Natural Hazards have a major impact on Australian communities including loss of life, property damage, environmental destruction, and a loss of money due to disaster relief.

There are two types of natural hazards; those that are related to the climate and weather (like droughts, bushfires and heatwaves), and those that are related to the earth’s crust and tectonic plates (such as earthquakes and tsunamis). The natural hazard that I have chosen that affects Australia’s environment is bushfires. Bushfires occur very frequently in Australia, especially in the hotter months of the year because of Australia’s climate. Australia’s climate is mostly hot, dry and arid. Massive parts if Australia’s land is devastated by bushfires each year and these impact Australia’s population and environment in numerous ways.

Bushfires occur on every continent except Antarctica but they happen most commonly in Australia. Bushfires cause extensive damage to homes, property, crops and human life but they can also have a positive effect on some plant and animal species. Certain flora that are native to Australia have evolved to rely on bushfires for reproduction and have become an essential part of Australia’s ecology. Some eucalyptus trees, for example, have pods of seeds that split open during a bushfire and spread out causing reproduction of the flora species.

Fire also allows for the growth of grass and other shrub like plants. There are four major types of bushfires. They are lightning fires, (caused by lightning creating a spark that lights) volcanic fires, (caused by sparks from rock fall due to volcanic eruptions) spontaneous combustion, (in which the naturally accelerated heating of a flammable product causes a flame) and arson fires (created by human negligence). The Black Saturday bushfires were a series of bushfires that occurred across Victoria on and around Saturday 7th February 2009.

These fires occurred during extreme heat conditions and became known as Australia’s most devastating Bushfire to date. 173 people died directly from the bushfires and another 414 were injured. The majority of the Black Saturday bushfires occurred because in the week leading up to this devastating disaster, Victoria has seen some of the worst bushfire weather conditions ever. The temperature reached a whopping 46 degrees Celsius and the winds were travelling at approximately 100km/h. There had also been two months of little to no rain prior to the bushfires and this plus the weather conditions caused the devastating fires.

Some of the fires however were caused by arsonists and people throwing out lit cigarettes into the dry grassland. Other ignition sources of the Black Saturday bushfires included fallen or clashing power lines and lightning strikes. Australia has one of the highest bushfire rates in the world so citizens especially in areas prone to fires have extra precautions in place to help prevent the spread of the fires, the damage of property and most importantly the loss of human life. One major precaution that was taken to prevent the spread of the Black Saturday bushfires was controlled burning or back-burning.

This is when a controlled fire is lit deliberately in the cooler months to destroy the flammable materials that could potentially ignite in the hotter months. Scientists say that if back-burning did not happen prior to the Black Saturday bushfires then the fires would have spread to 10 times the size that they did. You can imagine the chaos if one of the largest bushfires on Australian history was ten times bigger. Another precaution that was taken in order to prevent the Black Saturday bushfires was the preparation of fire helicopters.

The Country Fire Association (CFA) had a large number of helicopters equipped with the ability to drop thousands of litres of water on bushfires if they get out of control. This prevented the major spread of the fire and eventually put out the last of the fires. There were many major impacts that were caused by the Black Saturday bushfires. One of these was the major economic impact. After the bushfire, there began a massive clean-up and rebuild process on order to restore the areas impacted back to their original form. This costs a lot of money and was mainly funded by the Australian government.

This means that the Australian taxpayers were responsible for paying to rebuild after this major disaster. Because the tax was increased to compensate for this loss, many average taxpayers and small businesses were impacted. This lost a lot of money and impacted on Australia’s financial status. Another major impact that devastated Australia was the social impact. 173 people lost their life because of the Black Saturday bushfires and another 414 were injured. This impacted hundreds of families and friends of these people and caused distress to Australian citizens everywhere.

The last major impact that was caused due to the Black Saturday bushfires was the environmental impact. Over 450,000 hectares of land was burned during the bushfires. This affected the environment because of all the trees that have been burned down. Approximately 1 million trees were burned down in the combined bushfires. This is very damaging for the environment. Another major impact is the amount of smoke omitted from the fires. There was so much smoke that it could be seen from space. After the Black Saturday bushfires, people responded in many ways.

Many individuals that evacuated their homes before the bushfire, came back to survey the damage, some having to come back to a completely destroyed home. The communities’ response was the best of all. After the bushfires the majority of them stayed and rebuilt their homes rather than just leaving and building elsewhere. They felt a sense of belonging to the area so they stayed. The government responded to the crisis with a lot of funding and dedication towards rebuilding as well as a bonus increase into research to prevent bushfires like this from occurring. Everyone responded in many different ways but in the end the country united as one.


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