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California's Disastrous Wildfires Pale In Comparison To Australia's Catastrophic Fires

(CBS SF) – The scenes of wildfire devastation and smoke coming from Australia may appear familiar to many Californians, who have been dealing with a seemingly never ending string of wildfires in recent years.

Bushfires have burned in all Australian states, and the major cities of Sydney and Melbourne have been impacted by think plumes of smoke.

As of Thursday, a total of 14.6 million acres have burned in the country's bushfires since September, CNN reported, an area larger than the countries of Belgium and Haiti combined.

An estimated 5.27 million acres have burned in the last five years in California, according to Cal Fire.

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That period includes some of the largest wildfires in California history (.pdf), such as the Mendocino Complex Fire that destroyed nearly 460,000 acres in 2017, the Camp Fire that leveled the town of Paradise in 2018, and the wildfires that tore through Wine Country and Sonoma County in 2017 and 2019.

New South Wales, a state that is about twice the size of California, has been the hardest hit, with 8.9 million acres burned so far this season, approximately 4 percent of the state's land area.

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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. More than 1500 firefighters are currently battling more than 100 blazes across the NSW, with more than 30 fires still yet to be contained. (Sam Mooy/Getty Images)

The fires have killed 17 people across Australia. Nearly 1,300 homes have been destroyed in the state of New South Wales alone.

Experts said the combination of the worst drought in decades, a record-breaking heat wave in December, along with climate change, have contributed to the disastrous infernos.

Relief from the wildfires could be months away, with summer just starting in Australia. The country usually sees its highest temperatures in January and February.

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