Australia burning: How you can help

Australia is suffering from the worst fire in its history. The toll it’s taking on human and animal life – not to mention the environmental and economic toll – is rising, with almost 25 million acres lost. Some towns have been burned almost completely to the ground, others evacuated and waiting.

The Blue Mountains, part of the Great Dividing Range that separates Sydney and other eastern cities from the west of Australia, are known for their dramatically beautiful scenery. Sandstone formations stand just above the blue-green treetops of Eucalyptus forests. Now about 10 percent of the Blue Mountains’ forests are gone, and 20 percent of their World Heritage Centre – home to a substantial number of rare and endangered species, many of which exist only in Australia – has been lost.

A road in the once-colorful Blue Mountains, blackened by the fires

This is the worst fire season Australia has ever experienced.

As Americans look on from a great distance, it’s hard to take it all in. As a comparison, we can look to the worst fire season we have seen in recent years. Fires which burned up and down California’s coast destroyed a combined area of 1.67 million acres in 2018, the state’s worst year on record. Fires in the Amazon this year have burned 2.2 million acres. In Australia, the fires have burned more than 10 times as many acresacreage equalling almost the size of the country of England.

Quality of life is declining for many, even those outside of affected areas, as smoke wafts over the country and air quality levels reach 11 times what is considered hazardous. At least 25 people and more than a billion of the country’s animals are dead, more than 3,000 homes have been lost, and many farms which produce the country’s local food have been decimated.

Most farmers also serve in the Rural Fire Service (RFS), a volunteer group defending their farms and beyond, especially in sparsely populated areas where county fire services cannot reach but where hazardous fire conditions are high. Brad Shephard (also known as the Farmer from Down Under) is among this brave group of volunteers. He is on the ground fighting the fires and has provided us with the pictures in our story today. You can read about the fire from Brad’s perspective in the captions of the photos below.

It’s raining in Australia this week, and we can pray for more rain. But even after the fires have all been extinguished, it will take years to rebuild and regrow what has been lost. Scroll through to learn more about the situation from Brad and see what you can do to help victims of this unprecedented natural disaster.

View from the fire truck as we wait to defend property and livestock as the fire approaches
Our strike team – four trucks and one command vehicle had to turn around in a hurry as we were trying to help firefighters save houses in a small community. We never got there.
A view of the fires from my plane

Fires can spread through the tops of the trees or through the thick undergrowth. The need for backburning on a regular basis is essential to prevent future fires. A local RFS volunteer works to stop the fire spreading.
The fires range in area from small blazes to massive infernos that occupy acres of land. Some start and are contained in a matter of days, but others have been burning for months. In New South Wales alone, more than 100 fires are still burning.
Smoke from the fires is so bad it is affecting air quality even in New Zealand.
Smoke far away and higher in the atmosphere can cause blue light to scatter making a fire look like a sunset.
Another burned hillside in the Blue Mountains
A burned and abandoned truck by the side of a road in the Blue Mountains

Here’s how you can help today:

If you’re an NCF giver and would like to make a difference and support victims of these devastating fires, you can recommend a grant from your Giving Fund to support charities working on the frontlines. 

  1. Log in to your fund.
  2. Click on the Grant link in the top menu, and then recommend a grant to TrustBridge Global Foundation. NCF works closely with TrustBridge to allow U.S. givers to support charities overseas.
  3. On the grant page, select “Give special instructions to the charity.” Select “other,” then type “Australian Bushfire Relief,” and TrustBridge will do the rest.

If you don’t have a Giving Fund, open one today in minutes.

To help you give safely, easily, and efficiently to international charities, NCF works with the TrustBridge Global Foundation. Visit them online at, or learn more about international granting at NCF.

All photos are property of Brad Shephard and used here with permission.

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