Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have probably heard about the devastating bushfires that have engulfed Australia. In recent days, celebrities ranging from Elton John to Chris Hemsworth and others have pledged to donate money to bushfire relief.
As of Tuesday morning per a CNN report, a total of 24 people have died nationwide, and in the state of New South Wales alone, more than 2,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged.
Two dozen people have been charged with deliberately setting bushfires in New South Wales, where nearly 19,000 square miles have burned since September. State and federal authorities are struggling to contain the massive blazes, even with firefighting assistance from other countries, including the United States.
According to a WCCO report from Monday, there are even Minnesotans that have headed down under to help battle the terrible fires. Mike Crook of Grand Marais, a U.S. Forest Service employee from Superior National Forest, was requested in Victoria of southeastern Australia in mid-December. He’ll help monitor weather and fire behavior in the area until January 25.
On the eve of New Year’s Eve, Marty Cassellius of the Bureau of Indian Affairs was assigned to Victoria as well. He’ll help with fire suppression efforts on the ground until January 28.
According to the Minnesota Incident Command System, there are five more Minnesotans on the availability list who could be called on if there is a need for their specific qualifications. All this has been exacerbated by persistent heat and drought.
It’s currently the summer season in Australia and they’ve been experiencing record heat waves where it’s been consistency reaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit or more. It’s currently estimated that a half of billion animals have perished in the fires so far. A half a billion. That is so sad. What makes things worse is that many species including koalas and kangaroos only call Australia home.
Koalas are very finicky eaters as they feed on mostly eucalyptus plants in their native locations that have also been perishing in the fires. I saw a video of a badly burned and dehydrated koala basically flagging down bicyclists in Australia looking for help.
In the video, the bicyclists gave the koala water while calling wildlife officials. In many video clips coming from Australia, it’s very common to see surviving animals badly burned and wearing wraps and other protection to help heal their burns. It’s really sad.
My thoughts and prayers are with Australia!