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Featured Image Credit: Horsley Park Rural Fire Brigade
There's no denying that Australia is in the midst of one of its worst bushfire seasons ever.
The fires have been burning hot and burning wide over the past few months and it has devastated communities across the country.
They've burned in pretty much every state and territory in Australia, however the bulk of the catastrophic blazes have been concentrated in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.
Because they've been burning for so long, it's hard to understand just how much has been lost since they ignited.
Nineteen people have been confirmed dead, 15 from NSW, two from Victoria and two from South Australia.
Three volunteer firefighters have died in the line of duty in New South Wales after the trucks they were in rolled over.
There are fears that the death toll will rise as at least 17 people remain missing in Victoria's East Gippsland area alone and 28 across the state.
Hundreds of people are yet to be evacuated from the small area of Mallacoota after they evacuated to the beach on New Year's Eve to escape the raging inferno. The Navy has been deployed to help bring everyone home safely but it won't be a quick job.
In addition to those lives lost, the bushfires have absolutely decimated wildlife habitats across the country. Ecologists from the University of Sydney predict around 480 million mammals, birds and reptiles have died.
Nearly half a billion. Let that sink in for a moment.
Science for Wildlife executive director Dr Kellie Leigh told the New South Wales upper house inquiry: "We're getting a lot of lessons out of this and it's just showing how unprepared we are.
"There's no procedures or protocols in place - even wildlife carers don't have protocols for when they can go in after fire."
Many species have been affected in Australia - which is home to various indigenous fauna including kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, possums, wombats and echidnas - but koalas are feared to be among the hardest hit, with an estimated 30 percent of just one koala colony on the country's northeast coast thought to be lost.
More than 11.3 million acres of land has been burned so far.
For comparison, the amount of land lost during the Amazon fires last year, which captivated the world's attention and sparked outpourings of help from around the globe, was 2.24 million acres.
The scale of the fires are as big as the Netherlands or Belgium. Imagine an entire European country going up in flames.
They have caused smoke to travel hundreds or even thousands of kilometres, whether that is from Port Macquarie to Sydney or the New South Wales south coast to New Zealand.
People have been sporting smoke masks for weeks to avoid developing breathing difficulties and it's not known how many people will have suffered as a result of the smoke.
The bushfires, being dubbed the Black Summer fires, by some, have also destroyed at least 2,500 properties.
For those in Europe, this is the equivalent of how big #AustralianFires are,now 1.5 times size of Belgium
From our #ausfires map https://t.co/GgBj5eN6B9#bushfirecrisis #AustraliaBurns #AustralianBushfires #BushfireEmergency #bushfiresAustralia #AustraliaBurning #AustraliaFires pic.twitter.com/vvYVVr8XZH
- Guardian news (@guardiannews) January 2, 2020
People have had to evacuate from their properties, some of which they've lived in all their lives, and flee to safety. Many have returned a day or two later and found their home reduced to ash and rubble.
The New South Wales Rural Fire Service has revealed that despite losing 1,298 homes in the state so far, their firefighters have been able to save 8,790. Eighty-five facilities and 2,218 outbuildings have been destroyed, but crews have successfully saved 724 facilities and 7,401 outbuildings.
As the bushfires continue to ravage different communities, the total insurance bill for homes, properties and belongings lost could go into the billions of dollars.
The Canberra Times reports there has already been 3,870 claims from people in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania.
Insurance Council of Australia spokesman Campbell Fuller said: "The latest figures do not capture most of the recent property losses in eastern Victoria and southern NSW.
"It is likely these will be lodged with insurance companies and brokers over the next few weeks as householders, primary producers and business owners gain access to their properties."
These numbers are sadly constantly changing. We have a few more months left of the official bushfire season and there's no telling what could happen between now and then.
Even then, bushfires could continue to rage well after the official season is over.