Weather and Natural Disasters

A country in flames: Australian bush fires in pictures

A demonstrator with a mask attends a climate protest rally in Sydney on December 11, 2019.
Saeed Khan | AFP | Getty Images

Australia has been burning since September and an end to the catastrophic destruction does not appear to be in sight. Officials believe the fires could take months to extinguish.

The wildfires have already claimed more than two dozen lives and destroyed over 2,000 homes, according to The Associated Press.

Wildlife conservation group WWF in Australia is now also estimating that 1.25 billion animals have died.

As of Wednesday, estimates said as much as 15.6 million acres of land had burned. That's greater than twice the size of Maryland. New South Wales is getting hit the hardest with about 130 fires still burning across the state as of earlier this week.

For the first time in Australian history, thousands of army, navy and air force reservists have been thrown into the fight against the fires. U.S. officials said Tuesday they're planning to send 100 firefighters to the country next week, joining the 159 U.S. firefighters already there.

The fires started several months earlier than is typical for Australia's annual wildfire season as the country suffers through its hottest and driest year on record.

Here's a look at some of the devastation:

Gospers Mountain fire in New South Wales at an emergency level as heat wave continues

Fire and Rescue personal run from flames as a bushfire burns trees along a road near homes on the outskirts of the town of Bilpin on December 19, 2019 in Sydney, Australia.
David Gray | Getty Images

A mother and daughter look on as bush fires rage near Nana Glen, Coffs Harbour, New South Wales

Sharnie Moren and her 18-month-old daughter Charlotte look on as thick smoke rises from bushfires near Nana Glen, near Coffs Harbour, Australia, November 12, 2019.
Dan Peled | Reuters

Kangaroos in a smoky field in Snowy Valley on the outskirts of Cooma, New South Wales

A kangaroo jumps in a field amidst smoke from a bushfire in Snowy Valley on the outskirts of Cooma on January 4, 2020.
Saeed Kahn | AFP | Getty Images

Residents watch a blaze at Lake Tabourie, New South Wales

Residents look on as flames burn through bush on January 04, 2020 in Lake Tabourie, Australia.
Brett Hemmings | Getty Images

A map showing the scale of the Australian bush fires in comparison with the USA

A map of Australia overlayed on a map of USA to show the extent of the Australia bushfires.
Source: Steve Deane and

Smoke billows in Bairnsdale, Victoria

Smoke billows during bushfires in Bairnsdale, Victoria, Australia, December 30, 2019 in this picture obtained from social media. Picture taken December 30, 2019.
Glen Morey | Reuters

A resident assesses the damage to his farm in Wairewa, East Gippsland, Victoria

Fire ripped through the valley near the farming hamlet of Wairewa, East Gippsland, destroying homes. Brian Blakeman stayed and with his wife, saved their house. The surrounding buildings were destroyed. (Photo by Chris Hopkins/The Age/Fairfax Media via Getty Images)
Chris Hopkins | Fairfax Media | Getty Images

Australian soldiers prepare an aid delivery in Bairnsdale

In this handout provided by the Australian Department of Defence, A Royal Australian Navy MRH-90 helicopter is loaded with food and water by soldiers from JTF646 and ground staff at Bairnsdale Airport, on January 5, 2020 in Bairnsdale, Australia. The aircraft will travel to Cann River in Gippsland Victoria where two people have been confirmed dead and four remain missing. More than 923,000 hectares have been burnt across Victoria, with hundreds of homes and properties destroyed.
Private Michael Currie | ADD | Getty Images

A koala receives treatment for burns and smoke inhalation. An estimated 1.25 billion animals have perished as a result of the bush fires.

(L-R) Rebecca Turner (WIRES), Barbara Barrett and Sheila Bailey treat a koala named Sharni from Crowdy Bay National Park for burns at The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital on November 29, 2019 in Port Macquarie, Australia.
Nathan Edwards | Getty Images

Firefighters battle a fire at Tomerong, Northern Territory

Northern Territory Fire and Rescue work on the Eastern fringes of the Currowan fire at Tomerong on January 4, 2020 in Tomerong, Australia. A change in south-westerly winds have been sparking up fire activity in the area.
Nick Moir | Sydney Morning Herald | Getty Images

A resident stands outside her home surrounded by smoke and ash in New South Wales

Nancy Allen and Brian Allen stand outside the house as high winds push smoke and ash from the Currowan Fire towards Nowra, New South Wales, Australia January 4, 2020.
Tracey Nearmy | Reuters

Trees are burned black in Old Bar, New South Wales

Trees are burned black after a bushfire in Old Bar, 350km north of Sydney on November 10, 2019.
Peter Parks | AFP | Getty Images

Bush fires at the coast of East Gippsland

Thick plumes of smoke rise from bushfires at the coast of East Gippsland, Victoria, Australia January 4, 2020 in this aerial picture taken from AMSA Challenger jet.
Australian Maritime Safety Authority | Reuters

People find relief from record heat near Jindabyne in New South Wales as smoke from nearby bush fires fills the air

Residents take a dip to cool down at Lake Jindabyne, under a red sky due to smoke from bushfires, in the town of Jindabyne in New South Wales on January 4, 2020.

The Western Sydney bush fire forces M5 closure

Traffic is seen at a standstill on the M5 motorway westbound, due to a fire on January 05, 2020 in Sydney, Australia.
Jenny Evans | Getty Images

Evacuees from Mallacoota arrive at Port of Hastings, Victoria

Evacuees from Mallacoota arrive aboard the HMAS Choules on January 4, 2020 at the port of Hastings, Australia.
Ian Currie | Getty Images

A firefighter conducts back-burning measures in the Central Coast, New South Wales

A firefighter conducts back-burning measures to secure residential areas from encroaching bushfires in the Central Coast, some 90-110 kilometres north of Sydney on December 10, 2019.
Saeed Khan | AFP | Getty Images

A helicopter drops fire retardant to protect a property in Balmoral, New South Wales

A helicopter drops fire retardent to protect a property in Balmoral, 150 kilometres southwest of Sydney on December 19, 2019.
Peter Parks | Getty Images

A horse in danger as fires approach in Nowra, New South Wales

This picture taken on December 31, 2019 shows a horse trying to move away from nearby bushfires at a residential property near the town of Nowra in the Australian state of New South Wales.
Saeed Khan | AFP | Getty Images

A home reduced to ashes in the New South Wales town of Cobargo

The remains of burnt out buildings are seen along main street in the New South Wales town of Cobargo on December 31, 2019, after bushfires ravaged the town.
Sean Davey | AFP | Getty Imges

People stranded in Mallacoota are evacuated

People stranded in Mallacoota, Victoria are evacuated by army personnel to the HMAS Choules after bushfires ravaged the town on December 30th on January 3, 2020 in Mallacoota, Victoria, Australia.
Justin McManus | Fairfax Media | Getty Images

Flames approach a roadblock near Sussex Inlet, New South Wales

A New South Wales Police officer prepares to flee his roadblock on the Princes Highway near the town of Sussex Inlet on December 31, 2019 in Sydney, Australia.
Sam Mooy | AFP | Getty Images

Bush fires rage near Charmhaven, New South Wales

In this image dated Dec. 30, 2019, and provided by NSW Rural Fire Service via their twitter account, firefighters are seen as they try to protect homes around Charmhaven, New South Wales.
Twitter@NSWRFS via AP

Climate change activists protest in Sydney, New South Wales

Activists rally for climate action at Sydney Town Hall on December 11, 2019 in Sydney, Australia.
Mark Evans | Getty Images

A dehydrated and injured Koala receives treatment at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital

A dehydrated and injured Koala receives treatment at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie on November 2, 2019, after its rescue from a bushfire that has ravaged an area of over 2,000 hectares.
Saeed Khan | Getty Images

A daughter stands by the casket at the funeral for Rural Fire Service volunteer Andrew O'Dwyer

Charlotte O'Dwyer, the young daughter of Rural Fire Service volunteer Andrew O'Dwyer, stands in front of her fathers casket during the funeral for NSW RFS volunteer Andrew O'Dwyer at Our Lady of Victories Catholic Church on January 7, 2020 in Horsley Park, Sydney.
Dean Lewins | Getty Images

—The Associated Press contributed to this report.