Australian wildfires: Looking back 1 year later

While last year was one of the most chaotic years in recent memory, thousands of Australian and U.S. firefighters rang in 2020 with the world already on fire


One year ago, in January 2020, the world was not yet focused on a relatively new discovery of a novel coronavirus out of Wuhan, China. Instead, all eyes had been drawn to the historic Australian wildfires.

The fires began in September 2019, fueled by drought and the country’s hottest and driest year on record. 

By December, the fires necessitated an international mutual aid call to the U.S. Firefighters answered the call.

Looking back: By the numbers

298: Between December 2019 and March 2020, nearly 300 firefighters from the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service traveled to Australia to assist with the country's bushfires, the largest ever coordinated deployment of U.S. firefighters abroad, according to a spokesperson from the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), and the first bushfire assistance request by the Australian government since 2010. 

The U.S., Australia and New Zealand have been exchanging firefighters for more than 15 years. The last time the U.S. sent firefighters to Australia was in 2010.

“We are proud to provide personnel from the United States and will continue to support Australia with the resources needed during this unprecedented fire situation,” said U.S. Forest Service Fire Director Shawna Legarza.

3: On Jan. 23, 2020, three U.S. firefighters were killed in a plane crash during an aerial firefighting mission. The plane carrying Capt. Ian H. McBeth of Montana; First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson of Arizona; and Flight Engineer Rick A. DeMorgan Jr. of Florida crashed in the mountains near the Australian capital of Canberra.

Capt. Ian H. McBeth of Montana; First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson of Arizona; and Flight Engineer Rick A. DeMorgan Jr. of Florida. 
Capt. Ian H. McBeth of Montana; First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson of Arizona; and Flight Engineer Rick A. DeMorgan Jr. of Florida. 

3,500+: The number of homes lost between September 2019 and March 2020.

34: The number of people who lost their lives during the same time frame.

46 million: The number of acres that burned in the six-month span as of March 9, 2020. 

3 billion: The number of animals killed or displaced by the wildfires.

Looking back: Messages of support from around the world

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