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Two firemen in orange uniforms fight a fire by the side of the road. The flames are reaching high into the air and there is lots of smoke

What have been the responses?

Funds have been pouring into Australia in response to the wildfires. Many celebrities have used their public profiles to help fund raise with the likes of Kylie Minogue and Nicole Kidman among those making major donations. Sir Elton John has said he will donate $1 million to the Australian wildfire response as it has reached a ‘biblical scale’ whilst Australian Instagram star and comedian Celeste Barber has helped raise more than £15 million for the New South Wales Rural Fire Service alone. You can read about the variety of responses.

In the wake of the wildfires the government of Victoria has set up a new government agency called the Bushfire Recovery Victoria to help manage and coordinate the state recovery. An article from the Guardian ‘Do your homework, give cash and avoid the scams’ is online to help with donation advice. There are legal complexities though, in New South Wales the Rural Fire Service have been told that the £53 million+ (US$70 million) of emergency donation money that has been raised for them (and other state fire departments) might not legally be allowed to be distributed. This is due to the trust deed for the Rural Fire Service only allowing for spending on equipment, training, resources and administration. Huge sums of money are now flowing into Australia with a handful of billionaires also committing funds to rebuilding – Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s Chief Executive said his company would donate US$1 million to a number of charities.

A number of responses have occurred on the ground and in the air. Australian fire fighters have continued to fight the wildfire on the ground using water cannons, ditches and controlled burn practices. Controlled burning is when fire is used as a natural way to remove dry undergrowth in forests. If this is removed the forest itself is less likely to catch fire, it is an important tool for foresters. Controlled burning also stimulates germination in some cases – Australia is well-used to wildfires and has used fire itself to good effect. You can watch how this might be done. Aerial fighting is also very important in combating wildfires. Equally important is the increasing use of hydrants, smoke forecasting systems from weather forecasting agency ACCESS (Australia Community Climate and Earth-System Simulator) and climate modeling to allow ‘lead time’.