Kelowna volunteers dealing with devastation and emotions in Australia


The Australian wildfires continue to rage.  More than a million hectares has been blackened.  It's believed at least a billion, yes a billion, animals have died.  Kelowna's Brad Pattison is there with a group of Canadian volunteers,  trying to help as many animals as they can.  Yesterday was particularly emotional.

"Out of the blackness of the burned trees and the landscape, there's this one roo standing there," said Pattison, his voice quavering.  "It was amazing.  Because here's this roo standing...but...imagine you're standing with the bottom of  your feet burned, and you can't move.  And this roo is looking at us like, "please help me."

Pattison says the animal was tranquilized and then taken to a clinic for treatment.  Part of the team's work includes getting food to surviving animals, as fires have destroyed vegetation and water sources.   

"We're doing feed stations and hydration stations," said Pattison.  "So for example a feed station might look like a "fruit kabob" where you tie fruit with wire around trees.  Right now we're trying to populate areas with water stations."

All of this has taken an emotional toll on the team.

"There's a lot tears," said Pattison.  "But we're doing good.  We have a strong, strong team.  One of the things I support the team on is letting the tears flow.  We try to have fun, even in the darkest moments.  We just have a lot of work to do.  Fourteen, sixteen hour days.  We just wish we had more hours."

Pattison struggles with his emotions as he answers questions about how long the team can stay in Australia to help.

"Oh my god...I don't know.  Maybe three weeks, maybe five weeks, maybe two months...I don't know.  I guess maybe until the money runs out that was donated."

Donations are being accepted through Pattison's Facebook and GoFundMe pages.

"We had a little girl who raised $800 selling hot chocolate," said Pattison.  "She's 12-years old.  That $800, if I could put it in animals saved, would be three to five saved.  What that little girl did to raise that money, is going to save those animals.  That's what this is all about."