EDMOND—Ongoing bushfires in Australia are at an unprecedented scale and are affecting members in several areas. More than 5 million hectares and 2,500 homes have burned, killing an estimated 500 million animals. Thousands of people have been displaced, 28 have been confirmed dead, and dozens are missing. More than 100 fires are burning in New South Wales alone, with half of them currently uncontained. Feeding on drought-affected vegetation and spread by strong winds, flames have reached densely populated areas, including the communities of Philadelphia Church of God members.
In and around the Sydney area, some families have been unable to leave their homes due to road closures as fires burn within about 6 miles, others can see towering flames from their front yards, and others have been evacuated and are living in emergency housing. Stores are running low on stocks of supplies and food, and many roads are gridlocked. One PCG family stayed at their house to fight the fire, which burned down four houses within about 500 yards and left no property on their neighborhood undamaged. Embers fell within about 10 yards of their home as a miles-long wall of fire approached, with some flames rising an estimated 150 feet. While other homes had sheds, tanks and other items burned or melted, except for parts of a fence and some trees, their entire property was undamaged.
Smoke from the bushfires has caused the air toxicity levels in some places to rise above severe. Smoke from fires burning right now is visible more than 1,200 miles across the South Pacific in New Zealand, where the haze has tinted blue skies orange and pure white glaciers a coffee-brown color. According to the Guardian, authorities say that smoke levels over the past 30 days in Sydney and Canberra, where a number of members live, are “11 times greater than the hazardous level for human health.”