Australians open wallets, hearts for fire-ravaged communities

Melbourne, Australia – This year, as fires have raged across Australia, consuming homes, farms and towns, people have rallied to help, raising tens of millions of dollars for affected families, volunteer firefighting units and wildlife devastated by the blazes.

An estimated 17 million hectares (42 million acres) have been burned with more than 6,000 buildings destroyed, and families in every state left devastated and homeless.

Amid the tragedy, Australians have stepped in.

In New South Wales, the Rural Fire Service has received donations that have now surpassed 50 million Australian dollars ($34.1 million) said RFS spokesperson James Morris.

The funds have come from everything from fire-helmets and donation buckets placed in local shops to celebrity GoFundMe campaigns, he said.

“In that good old Australian community spirit, people just want to get out and do there bit,” Morris told Al Jazeera. “But they can’t always physically assist or donate physical items. So their way of showing their support is through financial donations.”

Thank you for being our heroes’

Barbeques, fun runs, bootcamps and benefit concerts, large and small have taken place across the country.

The Muslim community hosted barbeques for fire fighters and displaced locals in fire affected towns including Lakes Entrance, east of Melbourne, where one local tweeted that between four and five trucks of supplies had arrived and “the first round of snags are already cooked.”

The Lakes Entrance volunteer fire brigade have received some creative letters of thanks as well as supplies of cakes and muffins.

“A lot of people are just buying things to try and help people get back up on their feet,” he told Al Jazeera.

“The other week we picked up a huge delivery. Locals had put together trolleys full of supplies and they loaded the truck with heaps of slabs of water, long-life food, that sort of stuff for those people who were stuck in relief centres.”

Thousands of Australians have also opened their homes to evacuees and their pets.

After offering the paddocks behind her home to evacuees with animals via Twitter on New Year’s Eve, PhD student Erin Riley not only received requests, but more offers of accommodation began to flood in.

Within days she created FindABed to match the now 6,500 offers of accommodation with those in need.

Celebrity fundraisers

Benefit concerts are also being used to raise funds as local bands play pub gigs and international stars including Alice Cooper, Olivia Newton John, Queen and popular children’s group Wiggles organise concerts in the coming weeks with all proceeds donated to fire relief causes.

US punk band Blink 182 released a line of merchandise specifically to raise funds for Australia’s wildlife, while actress Rebel Wilson auctioned a private lunch at her house for two fans and Shane Warne, a former international cricketer for Australia, raised more than one million Australian dollars by auctioning off his baggy green cap.

Many celebrities, including Chris Hemsworth, Elton John, Pink and Metallica have publicly donated large sums to bushfire relief, while Australian comedian Celeste Barber’s Facebook fundraiser has raised more than 50 million Australian dollars.

Businessmen across the globe have also raised or pledged millions, while dozens of Australian companies have donated goods or percentages of their takings.

Stories of less conventional means have also spread via social media as some models offered nude photographs to those who donate, and a message to clients from an alleged local drug-dealer spread on social media after he promised to give 10 percent of the weekends earning to fire relief.

“A lot of my family have been affected,” the circulated message read. “Not a joke. Actually being legit. Thank you all.”

For now, long awaited rain is easing the situation in much of the country, but the risk of new outbreaks will remain high throughout the summer.

The generosity of fellow Australians will go a long way to helping the long rebuilding process that lies ahead for so many families and communities, as well as the country’s unique wildlife.

The post Australians open wallets, hearts for fire-ravaged communities appeared first on Al Jazeera.

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Author: Al Jazeera