VIDEO: Kelowna animal rescue team headed to fire-ravaged Australia to help wildlife

Brad Pattison is bringing a team of five from B.C., Alberta and Ontario

A Kelowna man is organizing a handful of people for an animal rescue mission on the other side of the world.

Brad Pattison and his team are headed to Australia where wildfires are devastating the country and have killed an estimated 1 billion animals.

The fires broke out during a record-breaking heatwave and have been burning since September. Nationwide, at least 25 people have been killed and 2,000 homes destroyed by the blazes, which have so far scorched an area twice the size of the U.S. state of Maryland.

The blazes have already wiped out 30 per cent of the koala population and are expected to worsen as temperatures rise.

Now, Pattison will fly to the fire-ravaged country to work with the Jirrahlinga Koala and Wildlife Sanctuary and other rescue organizations.

His team members come from Kelowna, Calgary, and as far out as Kitchener, Ont. Pattison himself has done rescue work in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, in 2010 after the earthquake in Haiti and last year during B.C.’s wildfire season.

“The type of situation we’re stepping into is very, very big. The scope of it is too much to comprehend at times,” Pattison said.

“What my team is expecting is the ugliest part of how nature does things. As we’ve seen from footage, there’s a lot of sadness and devastation. There are many souls that have been lost and one of the reasons we want to go is we want to help these souls that are alive to stay alive.”

READ MORE: B.C. firefighters to help battle Australian bushfires

Pattison said his team will bring the usual rescue gear such as leashes, ropes, tree-climbing gear, reflective gear, and night vision goggles. He said they’ve spoken with Australian fire crews who will lend them bush gear to be able to go into affected areas safely and rescue wildlife.

Currently, Pattison said they’re still figuring out a cost-effective way to get to Australia.

“We want to make sure that the donated dollars are actually being spent on the cause in Australia, not on travel,” he said.

“The donations we receive, that goes to medical supplies. The money is going to go to burn victims, so (it will be used for) burn supplies like ointments and bandages.”

Kelli Boogemans is part of Pattison’s rescue team. She said she doesn’t quite know what to expect, but she’s been doing her best to prepare by researching.

“I’ve been trying to look for imagery to prepare us a bit more for what we’re about to see. We’ve been listening to testimony from people down there and what they’re going through,” she said.

Preparing as much gear as they possibly can is only half of the story, according to Pattison.

“The one big thing we have to prepare for is absolutely non-physical, it’s mental. That’s getting our heads straight,” he said.

“We will be speaking with a doctor before we leave and receive some counselling. And when we get back, we’ll also speak with her. I want to make sure my team is prepared as best as they possibly can be.”

But through all this, Boogemans said they’re looking at the positives.

“I’m most looking forward to the first time we successfully save an animal. I know there’s going to be so much horrible devastation but I think we need to celebrate every time that we do have a victory. Even if we save just a handful of animals, it’s a success.”

So far, the team has received a little over $10,000 in donations. Their goal is $100,000.

To donate to Pattison’s team, visit their GoFundMe campaign or their Facebook page.

READ MORE: VIDEO: How to help the animals affected by Australia’s wildfires

READ MORE: Australia to pay ‘whatever it takes’ to fight wildfires


Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
Email me at twila.amato@blackpress.ca
Follow me on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Courtenay church offers free family clothing centre

Every Tuesday afternoon, 1-3 p.m., the Courtenay Fellowship Baptist Church (2963 Lake… Continue reading

Was there a tornado in Courtenay on Monday?

Suspected phone app glitch gives eerie warning

Record produced by Courtenay’s Doug Cox earns Juno nomination

He worked with fiddler April Verch in Nashville on classic country record

No bears destroyed in Cumberland in 2019

WildSafeBC coordinator updates Village on successes and challenges

Uptown Yarns marks 20 years in business in downtown Courtenay

Owner Jennifer Emslie says crafts like knitting are making a comeback

VIDEO: Feds look to help 126 Canadians quarantined in China for coronavirus

China has confirmed more than 4,500 cases of the new virus, with more than 100 deaths

RCMP to review fatal B.C. train derailment investigation after evidence points to ‘cover up’

The derailment, which occurred on Feb. 4, 2019, killed three men from Calgary

Family hopes Britain can get pregnant B.C. woman out of China’s coronavirus epicentre

Lauren Williams, who is about 35 weeks pregnant, has been stuck in Wuhan

Caregiver, society charged in death of developmentally disabled B.C. woman

The victim was not given the ‘necessities of life,’ police said

B.C. councillor runs afoul of Coastal GasLink protester

Northern pipeline not a Maple Ridge issue, insists Coun. Gordy Robson

B.C. reports first coronavirus in Vancouver region

First patient visited Wuhan, China, reported symptoms

Victoria resident says WestJet employee uttered racist comment, refused to let her on plane

Customer claims she was told ‘You guys can’t handle your alcohol’ by WestJet employee

Air Canada cancels select flights to China as coronavirus spreads

Canada’s largest airline runs 33 flights a week to China

Most Read