Australia’s bushfires have had a devastating effect on the country’s landscape, residents, and the economy. Though a certain number of fires is normal, it turns out people have been making it a lot worse – and not just by contributing to climate change.
Authorities now reveal that nearly 200 people have been arrested for of bushfire-related misdeeds since November 2019.
Arrests have been made in the states of Tasmania, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Queensland.
A total of 183 people have been arrested in relation to 205 offenses according to the latest data. Police in the Australian state of Queensland have found that 103 bushfires were set on purpose. 98 people have been detained in connection to these, and 67 of the perpetrators are underage.
In New South Wales, 53 people will deal with legal consequences because they reportedly ignored the total-fire bans in place. 24 people have been charged for setting bushfires on purpose.
The Sydney Morning Herald also reports that 47 people allegedly discarded matches or lit cigarettes improperly, and they are facing charges as a result.
These fires are no joke. Thus far, they have scorched an area of land double the size of Maryland, or roughly 13 million acres.
Because fire in Australia is such a problem, persons caught lighting tobacco or related products near hay, corn, standing crop, or grain can be fined up to $5,500. Lighting a fire during the implementation of a total fire ban, on the other hand, could result in a fine of $5,500 or 12 months in prison.
Those who are formally charged with starting a bushfire could face jail time of up to 25 years.
In the meantime, it’s important to note that although humans may have started some – not all – of the bushfires that have torn through the Aussie countryside, climate change is widely believed to have significantly exacerbated their destructive power. The areas of Australia most affected have had years of drought, and the world is coming off the hottest decade ever recorded, both of which have combined to crisp Australian vegetation into the perfect kindling.
Though some in Australia have been blaming the fires on arson for political purposes – primarily to deny culpability for or the existence of climate change – these fires would not have been so destructive without the warming and drying effects of climate change, and if the world does not step back from the brink, it is possible that this fire season could become the new Australian normal.