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

All spectators at the West Fraser Centre and Rink 2 must wear a mask during minor hockey events. (File Photo)
Quesnel minor hockey spectators must wear masks

Attendance at West Fraser Centre will remain at 50 participants and 50 spectators

Douglas Gook ran for the B.C. Green Party in Cariboo North during the 2020 provincial election. (Photo Submitted)
“Disappointing” local campaign doesn’t dampen Green spirits in Quesnel

Cariboo North candidate Douglas Gook is celebrating a potential first mainland victory for his party

The City of Quesnel’s Forestry Initiatives Program hopes to work with former United Way Fire Mitigation Project crew bosses Gary Horely (left) and Ray Jungaro — seen here share information about the fire mitigation project during a November 2019 open house at the Forestry Innovation Centre at Quesnel City Hall – to duplicate the program to do FireSmart work on private properties in 2021. (Quesnel Cariboo Observer File Photo)
City of Quesnel hopes to FireSmart private properties in 2021

The fire mitigation project was formerly run by the United Way

Royal Canadian Legion Branch 94 service officer Ian Campbell (left) and president Jim Spencer present the symbolic poppy to Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson at the Tuesday, Oct. 27 council meeting at City Hall. (Lindsay Chung Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel Legion kicks off Poppy Campaign

Donations stay in Quesnel to support the urgent needs of veterans in the community

One person was killed in a two-vehicle crash south of Williams Lake on Highway 97 Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. (Photo submitted)
Highway 97 crash south of Williams Lake claims one life

Road conditions at the time were slippery and covered with slush: RCMP

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

Hirdeypal Batth, 24, has been charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement in relation to an incident in August 2020. (VPD handout)
Man, 24, charged with sex assault after allegedly posing as fake Uber driver in Vancouver

Investigators believe there could be more victims outside of the Vancouver area

B.C. Premier John Horgan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee arrive for annual Cascadia conference in Vancouver, Oct. 10, 2018. They have agreed to coordinate the permanent switch to daylight saving time. (B.C. government)
B.C. still awaiting U.S. approval to eliminate daylight saving time

Clocks going back one hour Nov. 1 in Washington too

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with US Vice-President Joe Biden on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
A Biden presidency could mean good news for Canadian environment policy: observers

Experts and observers say even a U.S. outside the Paris agreement may ultimately end up in the same place

People take a photo together during the opening night of Christmas Lights Across Canada, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. The likelihood that most Canadians will enjoy a holly jolly Christmas season of gatherings, caroling and travel is unlikely, say public health experts who encourage those who revel in holiday traditions to accept more sacrifices ahead. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Ho, ho, no: Experts advise preparing for a scaled-back COVID holiday season

Many of the holiday season’s highlights have already been scrapped or are unlikely to take place

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Sen. Kim Pate is shown in Toronto in an October 15, 2013, file photo. The parliamentary budget office says a proposed law that would give judges discretion on whether to apply a lesser sentence for murder could save the federal government $8.3 million per year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel
Judicial discretion for mandatory minimum sentences for murder would save $8.3M: PBO

The result would be fewer people in long-term custody at federal correctional institutions, experts say

Commissioner Austin Cullen looks at documents before opening statements at the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia, in Vancouver on February 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
RCMP lacked dedicated team to investigate illegal activities at casino, inquiry hears

Hearings for the inquiry are set to continue into next week and the inquiry is expected to wrap up next year

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
Court approves money for B.C. foster children alleging harm from Kelowna social worker

The maximum combined total award for basic payments and elevated damages for an individual is $250,000

Most Read