A large portion of Australia is on fire after weeks of extreme heat, strong winds and drought that have created ideal conditions for hundreds of bushfires to thrive across the country. Several fires have been burning since November, particularly in the eastern state of New South Wales.
The fires threaten many of Australia’s largest population centers, including Sydney, a city of more than 5 million, which has been cloaked in smoke. Blazes have destroyed hundreds of homes and almost 3 million acres of bushland, threatening the habitat of countless wildlife, including already endangered koalas. One fire in the state of Victoria has reportedly become large enough to generate its own weather.
The fires come after years of drought in parts of the country and record-breaking heat. Earlier this week, Australia had its hottest day on record — only to break that record the following day. And fire season has just begun, leaving many bracing for worse.