Australia Fire Map That Has Gone Viral Is Not Accurate

An Australia fire map that has gone viral on social media is misleading and spreading disinformation about the country's devastating crisis, BBC reports.

The map in question was shared by many Twitter users, including singer Rihanna. It was posted as a map showing the live extent of the fires, showing large portions of Australia's coastline hit by active blazes. But as BBC notes, the image is Anthony Hearsey's visualization of the locations where fires were detected over one month.

"The scale is a little exaggerated due to the render's glow, but it is generally true to the info from the Nasa website. Also note that not all the areas are still burning, and this is a compilation," Hearsey wrote in response to criticism of the image, which was created using data from NASA's Fire Information for Resource Management System.

Another image circulating social media is a fire map showing flame icons across the country and purportedly representing active fires in Australia. However, the image — from the Australian government website MyFireWatch — is actually a representation of satellite data on heat sources that shows "any heat source" with a higher temperature than its surroundings.

"This may include gas flares, refinery furnaces or highly reflective large industrial roofs," the website reads, meaning the symbols may not all represent fires.

Per CNN, Australian police have charged at least 24 in connection to the wildfires. The individuals in question are accused of intentionally starting bush fires in New South Wales. A statement from the state's police released Monday addressed the arrests and revealed that the department has allegedly taken legal action against 183 people for fire-related offenses since November 8.
"Investigations into the cause, origin and overall impact of fires are continuing and since the latest State of Emergency was declared last Thursday (2 January 2020), Strike Force Tronto [sic] has provided expertise to six Police Area Commands and eight Police Districts."
Australia's fires have raged for months. They have killed at least 25 people and led to the destruction of over 2,000 homes. Millions of animals have died in the event, and almost 18 million acres of land have been burned, per CNN. Most of the impacted areas are national parks, bushland, and forests, which contain the country's native wildlife. Per ecologists at the University of Sydney, affected animals include birds, reptiles, and mammals — with the exception of bats.

Although mild weather brought the country temporary relief, it will not likely last long given reports of incoming high temperatures.