The 2019-20 Australian bushfires, also known as the Black Summer Bushfires, were a series of devastating wildfires that burned across Australia from July of 2019 to March of 2020. The fires were recognised as “unprecedented” in their intensity and scale and recorded as the most widespread and destructive in Australia's history.
The Black Summer fires burned over 24 million hectares of land, including regions of Gondwanan rainforest. More than 2500 homes were destroyed and 28 people were killed directly by the fires. 450 more people were killed indirectly as a result of smoke inhalation and more than 1600 native species had at least half of their range burnt. 3 billion individual animals are estimated to have been killed or displaced.
Then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison faced criticism in December when it was revealed that he had travelled to Hawaii for a family holiday during the peak of the fires. Mr. Morrison had already faced criticism for his management of the crisis prior to leaving the country, sidestepping questions around pay for volunteer firefighters and ignoring advice from fire experts.
Sydney, the capital of New South Wales, was one of the cities worst affected by the Black Summer Bushfires. The fires caused widespread smoke pollution in the city, with some areas experiencing air quality levels that were hazardous to human health. By December of 2019 Sydney’s air quality had worsened to more than 11 times the minimum hazardous level as a result of the neighbouring fires. The smoke also caused significant economic disruption, as it forced the closure of businesses and schools.