Australia is frequently ravaged by bushfires, more so than any other country in the world. During the severe 2002-2003 season, which lasted from 1 July 2002 to 28 February 2003, there were 5999 bushfires recorded. There has been a long, dramatic history of bushfires on the continent, with fires first sparking around five million years ago when dry grassland began to dominate the landscape. Prior to this period, Australia was predominately composed of lakes, wetlands, rivers and rainforests, conditions far too wet to foster bushfires. Around 40 000 years ago bushfires began to occur more regularly. The early Aboriginal peoples had an intricate understanding of fire and valued its relationship to the land. Today, bushfires wreak havoc across the land, causing significant amounts of damage, destroying buildings and houses, harming livestock, and on occasion, killing humans. See image 1 What is a bushfire?
A bushfire is a wildfire that burns out of control spreading across vegetated regions of bushland. In order for a bushfire to be catastrophic, the right conditions must be present. Most bushfires happen in times when temperatures are high. In addition, conditions must be dry. Areas with dense undergrowth, as can be found in south-eastern Australia, are the most vulnerable to bushfire. Bushfires often start when dry winds blow inland from central Australia. While the winds bring dry weather, they also provide ventilation for the flames. Trees such as eucalypts are especially prone to fire because their leaves have a highly-flammable oil. Dry leaves and bark are especially flammable. See image 2 Due to the size of the continent, and the great diversity of environmental conditions, there is no time of the year when the entire landmass is safe from the potential danger of bushfire. The fire season in different regions of Australia depends primarily on latitude. At the 'top end' of the country, extending north of Tenant Creek in the Northern Territory up...
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