Thousands of Animals Hurt by Wildfires in Australia

By Eric Leister, Meteorologist
October 26, 2013; 10:02 AM ET
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The above image shows a koala that was badly injured by a wildfire in 2009.

More than 100 wildfires developed last week across southeast Australia leading to the worst fire crisis in decades.

In Australia's most populous state, New South Wales, the fires raged for nearly a week before firefighters finally gained the upper hand on the largest blazes.

In total, more than 125,000 hectares (300,000 acres) of land were consumed by the fires that took thousands of firefighters to contain.

On Thursday, a man flying a water-bomber plane and trying to douse a bush fire with water was killed when the plane crashed, sparking a new fire in Budawang National Park. A second man died when he suffered from a fatal heart attack trying to save his home.

A firefighter hoses to control flames near houses at Bilpin, 75 kilometers (47 miles) west of Sydney, Australia, Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

Much of the focus is now shifting toward locating wildlife that have been injured or displaced by the recent wildfires.

The animal rescue group WIRES, combined with many local residents have already been searching scorched areas for surviving animals that need aid following the most recent wildfires according to Strait Times.

A Koala nicknamed Sam, saved from the bushfires in Gippsland, is cared at the Mountain Ash Wildlife Center in Rawson, Australia, on Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009. Bandages can be seen on Sam's paws. (AP Photo)

The New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service stated, while it is unclear how many animals have been killed, thousands have likely been affected.

Since July, Sydney, Australia, has only received 116 mm (4.59 inches) of rainfall, or about 36 percent of the normal rainfall. Temperatures have also been about 6 degrees above average.

The combination of the extremely dry weather, unseasonable warmth and rounds of gusty winds has produced the ideal conditions for wildfires spark and spread rapidly over southeast Australia.

Australia Weather
PHOTOS: Smoke Engulfs Sydney Skyline as Fires Rage Nearby
Sydney, Australia, Weather

After temperatures rose 20 degrees above normal on Tuesday, more seasonable temperatures with occasional showers will prevail through at least the upcoming Tuesday. Breezy winds, however, could also return on Tuesday.

Dry conditions will resume for Wednesday and Thursday, but not blazing heat.

Looking ahead, rainfall is expected to remain below normal as Australia heads into spring. That would keep the stage set for more wildfires to ignite, especially on any hot and windy days that unfold.

An image from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) shows the smoke from multiple fires spreading across Sydney, Australia, on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. Meteorologist Courtney Spamer contributed content to this story.


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