Australia is burning – here's how to help during the bush fire crisis

Stephanie Asymkos
·Reporter

Australia is experiencing a national crisis as bush fires in the states of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia devastate the country, intensifying since summer started in the Southern Hemisphere.

The blazes so far have claimed the lives of 26 people and a billion animals across swaths of the country. Millions of acres of land — roughly twice the size of Maryland — have been scorched and more than 2,000 homes have been destroyed, according to the most recent tallies.

So far, the blazes have killed 26 people and a billion wildlife, and have destroyed more than 2,000 homes. Graphic credit: David Foster/Yahoo Finance
So far, the blazes have killed 26 people and a billion wildlife, and have destroyed more than 2,000 homes. Graphic credit: David Foster/Yahoo Finance

The fires began in September, earlier than usual, and have been sustained by drought and the hottest and driest year on record for the country.

Stunning and unnerving images from the Australian infernos have tugged at the heartstrings of Americans and many feel motivated to help our ally in need.

How to help the firefighters

Firefighters keep a watchful eye on a fire threatening homes along the Princes Highway near in Milton, Australia. (Photo: REUTERS/Tracey Nearmy)
Firefighters keep a watchful eye on a fire threatening homes along the Princes Highway near in Milton, Australia. (Photo: REUTERS/Tracey Nearmy)

Donations can be made directly to local fire brigades, many of which operate through the service of volunteer firefighters. To support their around-the-clock efforts, you can donate to one of the brigades in the affected states:

How to help evacuees

Prime Minister Scott Morrison tours the fire devastated Wildflower farm owned by Paul and Melissa Churchman in Sarsfield, Victoria. (Photo: James Ross/AAP Image via AP)
Prime Minister Scott Morrison tours the fire devastated Wildflower farm owned by Paul and Melissa Churchman in Sarsfield, Victoria. (Photo: James Ross/AAP Image via AP)
  • Open Homes, Airbnb’s initiative to help those in need of emergency housing, is working to match displaced individuals and families with free and temporary homes. If you have space to host, consider registering your home here.

How to help pets and wildlife

  • The RSPCA New South Wales is accepting donations to help protect the region’s pets and livestock from the fires. The organization is evacuating animals to safety.

  • The World Wildlife Fund is accepting online donations to aid in koala habitat restoration and conservation. The koala triangle, the region where the majority of Australia’s koala population lives, also happens to be the bush fire danger zone. Already an endangered species, the raging fires have the potential to accelerate the species’ extinction timeline to outpace what conservationists estimated as 30 years.

In this image made from video taken on Dec. 22, 2019, and provided by Oakbank Balhannah CFS, a koala drinks water from a bottle given by a firefighter in Cudlee Creek, South Australia. (Oakbank Balhannah CFS via AP, File)
In this image made from video taken on Dec. 22, 2019, and provided by Oakbank Balhannah CFS, a koala drinks water from a bottle given by a firefighter in Cudlee Creek, South Australia. (Oakbank Balhannah CFS via AP, File)
  • The Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie has created a GoFundMe page for its efforts to rescue koalas from the bush fires, provide water drinking stations and establish a breeding program. You can also donate to the organization’s broader work on its website.

  • Zoos Victoria has established a Bushfire Emergency Wildlife Fund, which funds emergency veterinarian assistance to animals affected by the crisis.

  • The Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park is treating injured koalas and other animals impacted by the fires. A dedicated GoFundMe page is raising funds to be used for necessities like veterinary care, koala milk, supplements, rehabilitation enclosures, and supply storage centers.

  • WIRES is an Australia wildlife rescue organization that is working to rescue and care for sick, injured, and orphaned native animals. Donations can be made on its website or through its Facebook or PayPal accounts.

How to help the broader cause

  • The Australian Red Cross is accepting financial and material (for those in Australia only) donations for its Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund.

  • GIVIT is an Australia-based nonprofit that acts as a pass-through for donated goods and funds to charities and victims. Donors outside of Australia can only give monetary contributions.

A firefighter backs away from the flames after lighting a controlled burn near Tomerong, Australia, in an effort to contain a larger fire nearby. (Photo: AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
A firefighter backs away from the flames after lighting a controlled burn near Tomerong, Australia, in an effort to contain a larger fire nearby. (Photo: AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
  • The Salvation Army Australia is accepting online financial donations toward its Emergency Services teams that are responding to the bushfires.

  • St. Vincent de Paul Society is helping those on the ground by providing food, clothing and essential items, and emotional support to impacted communities.

  • The Victorian Bushfire Appeal is a partnership between the Salvation Army Australia and Bendigo Bank, an Australian national bank, with 100% of funds going directly to communities in need. For those living outside of Australia, donations can be made through email.

  • Foodbank Australia, a nonprofit committed to fighting hunger and food scarcity, is accepting monetary contributions from donors outside Australia.

How are celebrities aiding in the efforts?

Australian A-listers like Cate Blanchett, Naomi Watts, Margot Robbie, Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, and Keith Urban have used social media to amplify for donations, while also citing climate change as the reason for the devastation.

Kidman and Urban donated $500,000 to Rural Fire Services and included a call to action for her followers to contribute. Singer-songwriter Pink pledged $500,000 and Australian-born actor Chris Hemsworth pledged $1 million to the cause.

During Sunday’s Golden Globe awards ceremony, Crowe, who didn’t attend because his home was damaged by the fires, used his acceptance speech for best actor to address the crisis head-on. “Make no mistake. The tragedy unfolding in Australia is climate change based,” said Jennifer Aniston, who read Crowe’s statement.

Stephanie is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. She can be reached at stephanie.asymkos@yahoofinance.com. Follow her on Twitter @SJAsymkos.

Read more:

Follow Yahoo Finance on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flipboard, SmartNews, LinkedIn, YouTube, and reddit.