Group collecting funds to help Australia recovery as Minnesota firefighters join wildfire battle

Wildfires that have been burning for months have caused mass destruction across Australia, killing 23 people and destroying hundreds of homes, while causing the deaths of thousands of animals.

Now, Minnesota firefighters are joining a coalition headed overseas to assist in the battle as the fires have continued to burn out of control.

So far, more than 12 million acres have burned in Australia. For comparison, the devastating 2018 California wildfires burned less than two million acres.

Minnesotans are stepping up to do their part to help in the relief efforts. A group from Shakopee is requesting donations to be sent to those battling the wildfires in Australia.

The Shakopee Chapter of the Jaycees, which is an organization that provides adults aged 18 to 40 to help solve problems around the world, is asking its members to pitch in and help those in Australia.

The images out of Australia are daunting. Wildfires raged over the weekend sending massive plumes of smoke into the sky across the country. The wildfires began in September and have been fueled by a hot summer there. As they rage on, people all around the world want to do something.

"The first thing that really came to mind was how horrible it is and what the people must be going through and really looking at the effect it would have on somebody’s life to be in that country," said Gwen Labovitch.

Labovitch is the president of the Shakopee chapter of the Jaycees. Sunday morning, she had a conference call with her counterpart in Australia who she described as sounding traumatized from the blazes.

“This could be my neighbor next to me, my friend. That’s what really spurred us to help," she said.

They're asking fellow Jaycees or anyone in the community and across the state to step up and donate what they can. The money will be given to a global organization like the Red Cross and also help many wildlife charities who are trying to save as many animals as they can.

Dozens of people have died in the fires and thousands have evacuated their homes. We know of at least two firefighters from Minnesota who went over there to help.

If you would like to help donate, you can click here.