TORONTO -- The wildfires raging in Australia have so far scorched an area larger than the province of Nova Scotia, and the continent’s wildfire season–which normally lasts through March–is nowhere near its end.

While rain and cooler temperatures are bringing some relief to communities, there are still more than 135 fires burning across the southeastern Australian state of New South Wales and higher temperatures are in the weather forecast for later in the week. Seventy of those fires are not contained.

As officials warn conditions may only worsen, puts into context the wildfires’ devastating toll to humans and wildlife, and how the size of the blaze compares to other recent major fires around the world.

To put the sheer size of the Australian wildfires into perspective, click through the tabs and see how much area they’d consume if they were to surround these five major Canadian cities.

6.3M hectares compared to Canadian cities

250 km

Here’s how the Australian wildfires compare in size to other devastating fires, including the Fort McMurray, Alberta fire of 2016 that was deemed the costliest disaster in Canadian history, and the California wildfires of 2018 which were called the deadliest and most destructive ever recorded in the state.

The Australia fires compared to other recent fires

Australia 2019/20 (63,000 km²)
Amazon 2019 (9,060 km²)
California 2018 (7,664 km²)
Fort McMurray 2016 (5,895 km²)

Human cost

As of Tuesday, the death toll in Australia has claimed 25 lives. And hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes across the country.


The ecological devastation is hard to fathom. An estimate by a University of Sydney ecologist puts the number of mammals killed since the wildfires started in September 2019 at around 480 million. The number includes about 8,000 koalas.

Financial toll

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has pledged $2 billion (C$1.8 billion) for recovery efforts, in addition to the tens of millions already designated for disaster relief. “If more is needed and the cost is higher, then more will be provided,” Morrison said. Meanwhile, Australia’s Insurance Council so far has received more than 5,000 insurance claims totalling $375 million (C$337 million).

The map below shows thermal activity detected by NASA satellites between January 5 and 6. You can zoom into each point to see where the hotspots detected by satellite sensors are located.

View full screen version of map interactive -- Courtesy Esri Canada