I was thinking about the Australian bushfires and did a little looking around to get some data. Currently about 12 million acres have burned – compare that with 10 million acres in the US in 2017, a bad year. (That’s for the entire US across an entire year, but of course most of that was concentrated in summer months, in the western states.) For comparison, Australia is close to the size of the US.

Living in the PacNW, I have been through some bad years. I’ve seen the sky gray from smoke, smelled it even inside the house, seen the sun as a big evil orange orb. I’ve seen the firefighters, come from all over the US, bunked in tents in the park a short walk from our house because there was nowhere else to put so many of them. So do I know what it’s like in Sydney today? Nope.

See this map. Those fires are concentrated in a ring around the outside of the continent – because that’s where the fuel is, the green or not-so-green things that will burn. The middle is a giant desert, part of it as bare and sere as the driest parts of Nevada. That’s also where the people are, and the roads, in that habitable ring around the coast. There are nt a lot of roads inland, and not a lot of infrastructure there to house people if they tried to evacuate inland. So the blazing acres are vast, but they’re also focused in a discrete and heavily populated part of the country.

I’ve lived through some bad wildfire years out here. Do I know what it’s like in Australia now? No … but maybe I know just enough to know what I don’t know.