2020 started as 2019 ended, with the traditional summer bushfire season reaching into regional towns and communities across every state and territory. While Australians expect to see bushfires each year, this experience was different. In January, fires were active in five states at the same time, stretching our firefighting resources, while the impact of smoke shut down cities not directly affected for several weeks.
The fires ultimately took hold of vast areas of bushland, with the loss of 18.6 million hectares of vegetation, 5900 buildings, including 2776 homes, and sadly 34 people lost their lives. The scale and ferocity of this fire season was unique.
As the bushfires raged, the summer’s weather also brought the rain. Hundreds of regional towns saw one of our hardest drought events begin to end. Yet the storms brought destructive hail and flash flooding to a number of cities, generating more damage to buildings and homes.
By February the ‘water cooler’ conversation had started to include the seemingly unreal provocation that all we needed now was a plague to complete this series of terrible and unfortunate events. And that’s exactly what happened.