By HANNAH SIEVERT
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY
Sandy Henderson moved to Bend 17 years ago, but she still has family and close friends in the land down under.
Today, she talked about what it’s like to see her childhood home devastated.
This map shows what the fires in Australia would look like if they were happening in North America.
The map helps people in the U.S. understand just how devastating the fires are.
But for Bend resident Sandy Henderson, the fires already hit close to home.
“Knowing there are places I use to go as a kid, like the Adelade Hills, that don’t look the same, it’s so tough,” said Henderson, executive director at the Central Oregon Film Office.
Henderson grew up in Australia and her family still lives there, which makes watching the devastation from the fires on TV and online personal and painful.
“I have friends that have lost homes but obviously that’s better than losing a life,” she said.
Nearly 18 million acres of land have been burned by the fires – much of it bushland, forests, national parks.
To put it into perspective – that’s 10 times the size of the Deschutes National Forest.
“The Australian bush is so beautiful, the birds are so beautiful because there’s half a billion animals that have been killed,” she said. “It’s scary to think about going home and not hearing the Australian songbirds..because they’ve been devastated.”
According to a study by ecologists at the University of Sydney, nearly half a billion animals have been impacted by the fires in New South Wales. The study says the true loss of life is likely much higher.
On Kangaroo Island, which relies on tourism, an estimated 25,000 koalas have been killed by the fires.
“Australian animals are so distinctive, and they want to hold a koala or see a kangaroo,” she said. “To know those indigenous populations have been wiped out, makes it really tough.”
To help from thousands of miles away, Henderson has created the Facebook page Central Oregon for Australian bushfires – where you can find information on ways to contribute.
And she’s planning to go back and volunteer in a few months.
“I’m looking forward to going home, but I’m also scared to go home and see the devastation that’s taken place.”
Koalas In Care: http://www.koalasincare.org.au/pages/donation.htm
Rural NSW Fire Services: https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/