Australia family speaks out on impact of wildfires

April Warnecke spoke to the family she lived with in Australia while she was a high school...
April Warnecke spoke to the family she lived with in Australia while she was a high school exchange student about the devastating wildfires.(Arizona's Family)
Updated: Jan. 13, 2020 at 2:45 PM MST
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(3TV/CBS 5) -- Good news this week in the forecast for Australia. The country has been battling massive brush fires for months. Finally, there is a chance of rain this week across parts of the country, along with lighter winds. Already, almost 30 people have died in the fires and more than 2000 homes have been destroyed.

The “land down under” has a special place in my heart since I lived there for a time in high school. I was an exchange student in Sydney in the mid-1990s.

I recently caught up with the Tory family who hosted me back then. Their home is safe, but they’re watching the weather closely.

“We’re about an hour north of the fires to the south, and about 25 miles east of the (other) fires at the moment. We’re pretty well safe, but every day is a bit of a hazard,” said Peter Tory. “I mean, the smoke comes in and it’s the same smoke that’s hitting New Zealand and we heard it’s hitting South America too.”

Tory says the air quality has been changing daily depending on the wind.

“My [sic] won’t go outside with their own kids,” said Tory. “My grandkids stay indoors when it’s a bad day. It’s a health hazard.”

It’s been a long, hot summer so far for Australia following 2019, which was the hottest and driest year on record for the country.

There seems to be no end in sight for the fires, and what rain they’ve seen lately hasn’t been enough to make a difference.

“The rain we had a few days ago wasn’t enough to kill the fires,” said Tory. “I think we might’ve given them relief for a few hours, but it wasn’t enough to put the fires out. We need a week of solid rain probably.”

Several people have been arrested for arson, but lightning is to blame for most of the blazes.