Australia Fires Burning Since November

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

A firetruck arrives at the scene of one of the wildifires.

Australia Fires: Destruction Spanning a Continent

Trigger Warning: This resource contains sensitive content. Please review thoroughly to determine if this is right for your individual classroom.

Vast swaths of Australia are burning with thousands of people under evacuation orders since the fires began in November. A record summer fire season has charred 15 million acres, destroyed 2,000 homes and killed at least 25 people. The states of New South Wales and Victoria are hardest hit, but fires are also burning across the rest of the country in an area twice the size of the U.S. state of Maryland. Watch the video and answer the questions. You can turn on the “CC” (closed-captions) function and read along with the transcript here. To learn “How to help the victims of Australia’s wildfires,” click hereIf short on time, read the summary, answer the questions and take a look at these photographs.



A three-year drought preceded the crisis raising concerns about the effects of climate change. In addition, police have arrested and charged 24 people since early November who they say purposely started fires.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government was committing an extra 2 billion Australian dollars ($1.4 billion) toward the recovery effort in addition to the tens of millions of dollars that have already been promised. Morrison has been criticized for not acting swiftly enough to fend off the crisis. Australians in the coastal town of Cobargo blamed Morrison for ignoring them because they are lower-income and therefore have few resources, including firetrucks.


Australian cyclists stop to offer water to thirsty Koalas fleeing the wildfires in this video from DW News.


Australia Fires: Discussion Questions

  1. Focus question: Why are wildfires so dangerous and destructive?
  2. What are the causes of Australia’s wildfires? Who is affected?
  3. What has the Australian government’s response been? What about the international community? Read this article to find out ways to help.
  4. Why are animals and plant life in grave danger during wildfires? Read this article “Thousands of koalas feared dead in Australia wildfire” to learn more.
  5. Why would anyone purposely want to start a wildfire? What did the report say about climate change’s role in the fires? How could you find out more?
  6. Media literacy: Where else have you heard about Australia’s wildfires? Do you think the situation is getting the attention it deserves? Why or why not?
  7. Media literacy: Dan Rivers of Independent Television News (ITN) delivered this report. What is ITN? Why does PBS NewsHour use their footage?


Related: Over a billion animals perish in Australian Fires


australia fires: a journalist interviews a woman whose house was destroyed in the flames.

A woman whose house was destroyed in the fires talks to a reporter. PBS


Australia Fires: Extension Activity

Check out this story via Buzzfeed: If You’re Going To Share A Map Of The Australian Bushfires, Please Make Sure It’s Correct and this one via ABC News: Using US map to examine scale of massive Australia wildfires. 

This article was originally published by PBS NewsHour Extra and can be found here.