Australia's wildfire death tolls climbs as hundreds of fires rage

Evacuation Notices Issued Across NSW As Firefighters Prepare For Dangerous Bushfire Conditions
Posted at 10:01 AM, Jan 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-04 13:00:59-05

(KGTV) — A father and son have become the latest victims of the worst wildfire season in Australia's history.

Local authorities tell the Associated Press the devastating wildfire season has now killed 23 people, including Dick, 78, and Clayton, 43, Lang. The two were identified Saturday after their bodies were discovered on a highway on Kangaroo Island, an island located off the tip of South Australia.

Dick Lang was an acclaimed bush pilot and outback safari operator often called "Desert Dick." His son, Clayton, was a renowned plastic surgeon who specialized in hand surgery, thier family told the AP.

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The death toll has continued to grow as wildfires have moved "frighteningly quick," cutting off the ability to evacuate for some residents.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called in about 3,000 reservists as the threat of wildfires has escalated in at least three states, the AP reported.

Saturday, fire dangers increased as temperatures rose to record levels, eclipsing 109 degrees Fahrenheit in Canberra and hitting a record 120 degrees F in Penrith, located in Sydney’s western suburbs.

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The deadly wildfires have raged since September, scorching more than 12 million acres of land and destroying more than 1,500 homes.

The start to Australia's summer wildfire season has also killed about 500 million birds, reptiles, and mammals in New South Wales state alone, Sydney University ecologist Chris Dickman told the Sydney Morning Herald. That estimate doesn't include frogs, bats, and insects likely killed as well.

More than 200 fires are currently burning in Australia, official say, forcing mass evacuations and clogging roadways as people and firefighters move in and out of threatened areas.

Navy ships have been called in to help evacuate hundreds stranded on beaches. One official noted the “fire fatigue” but told residents not to wait to flee until it was too late.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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