Australia is in the midst of one of the worst bushfire crises the world has seen. Since September, entire communities have been engulfed by relentless heat and fires. The flames are showing no signs of slowing down - which means only one thing... death tolls are rising.

Unbelievably, it seems some of these fires have been started deliberately. Keep scrolling to get the full story including the sentence the culprits could be facing.

 

Australia is being ravished by one of the worst bush fire crises the world has seen in decades.

Due to soaring temperatures and one of the worst droughts in years, the relentless fires have been burning since September. We're currently in January. Just let that sink in.

New South Wales is suffering immensely at the moment.

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There have been fires reported in every state, but New South Wales is truly taking a beating by bush fires and is undoubtedly the hardest hit. According to CNN, so far, in New South Wales alone, more than 2000 houses have been destroyed.

NSW declared a state of emergency last month.

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What does this mean? Well, it grants "extraordinary powers" to the NSWRFS commissioner, including the authority to allocate government resources and direct government agencies in taking action, according to CNN.

The raging fires have had a devastating impact...

The BBC reported that over 100 bush fires continue to burn in populated coastal and inland regions to the city's north.

Twenty-four people have been confirmed to have died in the fires since they started...

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Including several volunteer firefighters.

And it's not just the flames themselves that are having deadly consequences...

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Last month, the smoke was so bad in Sydney that air quality measured eleven times the "hazardous" level, CNN reports.

The Australian fire services have been stretched to their limits.

Firefighters all over the country have been tirelessly battling the formidable blazes and are struggling to contain them. Keep scrolling to see the heartbreaking pictures of the aftermath.

Australia has even been forced to make a global call for help...

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And it was Canada that was the first to respond and take action. The Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, based in Winnipeg, answered the call for help after realizing the bush fire situation is expected to continue for many more weeks and gave up their Christmas to help fight the raging fires.

Other countries offered their assistance...

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Including the U.S. and New Zealand, who have sent in more firefighters to try and help tackles the blazes.

But even with assistance from overseas...

There seems to be no end to the blazes. In total, more than 5.9 million hectares (14.6 million acres) have been burned, CNN reports. And those who escaped the flames have lost their homes, with all their possessions perishing to the flames.

People have been desperately fleeing to beaches for cover.

And are left stranded awaiting evacuation. It's a truly heartbreaking sight.

How long could the fires actually be burning for?

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Sadly, Australia has only just entered summer, meaning temperatures could remain high for some weeks. In fact, temperatures usually reach their highest during January and February, so there may be no end in sight for months.

The fires have also had a devasting impact on wildlife.

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Several of Australia's native species have been affected including kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, possums, wombats, and echidnas.

Nearly half a billion animals have died.

Ecologists from the University of Sydney have said that it's thought around 480 million mammals, birds, and reptiles have died since September.

But it turns out that some of these devasting blazes have been started on purpose.

Why anyone would do such an unthinkable thing is baffling, but, according to state authorities, arrests have been made this week in relation to 205 bushfire-related offenses.

Shockingly, it is believed that eighty-five percent of bushfires are caused by humans.

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According to Dr Paul Read, co-director of the National Centre for Research and Arson: "About 85 per cent are related to human activity, 13 per cent confirmed arson and 37 per cent suspected arson."
"The remainder are usually due to reckless fire lighting or even just children playing with fire, " he told ABC.

So far, 183 arrests have been made in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania since November last year.

In New South Wales alone, which is one of the hardest places hit,  twenty-four people have been charged with deliberately lighting bushfires, along with fifty-three individuals facing legal action for allegedly failing to comply with a total fire ban. Keep scrolling to learn about what their punishment will be.

Many of the alleged culprits are juveniles.

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Police stated that 103 fires in Queensland had been started on purpose, with 98 people, 67 of whom are juveniles, identified as the offenders.

Failing to comply with the fire ban can land you in serious trouble.

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Anyone caught lighting a fire during a total fire ban could face up to 12 months in prison and/or a $5,500 fine. Individuals seen lighting a tobacco product within fifteen meters of a stack of hay, grain, corn, or any standing crop could also face a fine of $5,500. But of course, for those accused of arson, it's a whole different story...

Offenders may be in for some hefty prison time.

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Crimes relating to lighting bushfires carry a sentence of up to 25 years in prison for damaging property with the intention of endangering, and 21 years in prison for starting a bushfire and being reckless as to its spread, under the New South Wales Crimes Act, the Rural Fires Act and Rural Fires Regulation, Ladbible reports. To learn more about the bushfire crisis, keep scrolling to see the harrowing pictures that truly sum up the devastation. This is so heartbreaking...