On February 7, 2009, the Australian state of Victoria experienced as many as 400 individual bushfires. These wildfires scorched more than 4,500 square kilometers (1,737 square miles) of land, destroyed 2,029 homes, and killed 173 people. Recovery cost more than a billion dollars. The so-called “Black Saturday Bushfires” are often called the worst natural disaster in Australia’s history.
 
Bushfires are a common threat in Australia’s arid summer climate. Victoria had been enduring an unusual heat wave, with temperatures as high as 48 degrees Celsius (115 degrees Fahrenheit) and almost no rain. In addition, winds were recorded at more than 100 kilometers per hour (62 miles per hour). The government imposed a total fire ban across the state.
 
Most of the bushfires were the result of arson, collapsed power lines, and natural events such as lightning strikes. The fires were not fully contained or extinguished until March 14.
arid
Adjective

dry.

arson
Noun

crime of intentionally setting an illegal fire.

Noun

all weather conditions for a given location over a period of time.

extinguish
Verb

to put an end to or completely do away with.

government
Noun

system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

heat wave
Noun

period of unusually hot weather.

Noun

sudden electrical discharge from clouds.

natural disaster
Noun

an event occurring naturally that has large-scale effects on the environment and people, such as a volcano, earthquake, or hurricane.

power line
Noun

cable or cord used to transfer electricity from a power plant to a population center. Also called a transmission line.

Noun

uncontrolled fire that happens in a rural or sparsely populated area.

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