Wildfires in Australia have burned more than 32,000 square miles since September. That is an area of land a little smaller than Indiana and larger than the entire state of Connecticut.
The unprecedented flames have killed a billion animals, 27 people and destroyed more than 1,000 homes. You can compare the size of the wildfires to your home state or city on this interactive map.
The images of smoke and wild flames have captured the world’s attention. Images that, for one dad in Columbia, Connecticut, hit closer to home.
“I wish I was down there able to do something, but I couldn’t do much more than what they are doing right now,” said Doran Shumway.
Shumway’s daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren live in New South Wales, just a short drive from some of the active bush fires. Shumway said he calls the couple every morning and every night to check in. NBC Connecticut was there Friday morning as Shumway video-chatted with his family.
“This is unprecedented in Australia,” said Paul Garrett, Australia native and Shumway’s son-in-law. “We just have not seen it like this before.”
Garrett and his wife, Sara, say they live in a protected area and are safe from the fire, but they have seen friends lose everything.
“People are just lucky to have the shirt on their back,” said Paul Garrett.
The couple said they have not seen a clear sky since November.
“The air is just filled with soot. Your car is covered in ash,” Sara Garret described, holding back tears. “You see the burnt leaves on the ground.”
The conversations do not make for easy content during the family calls to home, more than 10,000 miles away.
“It is hard to watch and you worry about them all the time,” said Shumway. “What could happen?”
“I always try to put my mother and father at east, but, yes, it is hard,” said Sara Garrett.
The Garretts said that the help that has been pouring into the country has been reassuring. Learn more about ways to donate here.
According to members of the United States Congress, 100 firefighters have been sent to Australia over the last four weeks and 50 more are planning to be deployed next week.
“We will get there in the end,” said Paul Garrett. “We always do.”