Kelli Boogemans and Brad Pattison are part of a volunteer animal rescue team getting ready to go to Melbourne to help Australian wildlife. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)

Kelli Boogemans and Brad Pattison are part of a volunteer animal rescue team getting ready to go to Melbourne to help Australian wildlife. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)

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

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna General Hospital declared over

A total of three cases were linked to the outbreak in unit 4E— one patient and two staff

Sheldon Pierre Louis’s winning mural design, “kʷu mr̓imstn, we are medicine.” (Facebook: Okanagan Nation Alliance)
Syilx artist selected as winner of Kelowna Gospel Mission’s mural project

Sheldon Pierre Louis was also awarded $10,000 for his winning submission, “kʷu mr̓imstn, we are medicine.”

The administrative headquarters for Central Okanagan Public Schools in Kelowna. (File photo)
Another 6 Central Okanagan Schools exposed to COVID-19

The school district has seen a rise in cases at several of its schools over the course of the month

Photo: pixabay.com
Morning Start: What does space smell like?

Your morning start for Wednesday, April 21, 2021

A lone traveler enters the Calgary Airport in Calgary, Alta., Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
VIDEO: Trudeau defends Canada’s travel restrictions as effective but open to doing more

Trudeau said quarantine hotels for international air travellers will continue until at least May 21

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson leaves the assembly with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Paid sick leave for ‘hard-hit’ workers left out of provincial budget, BCGEU says

‘For recovery to be equitable it requires supports for workers, not just business,’ says service employee union president Laird Cronk

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

Shuswap businesses dependent on  tourism are bracing for further details of travel restrictions expected to be announced by Friday, April 23. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)
B.C. travel restrictions create uncertainty among North Okanagan-Shuswap businesses

Sicamous mayor to ramp up campaign against licence plate hate

The site of a proposed water bottling facility referred to in a groundwater licence application is in the vicinity of this intersection. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Concerns raised over water licence application in Salmon Arm for bottling water

Neighbours want to know more, city councillor concerned about commercial use of public aquifers

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

In this image from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, center, is taken into custody as his attorney, Eric Nelson, left, looks on, after the verdicts were read at Chauvin’s trial for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Court TV via AP, Pool
George Floyd’s death was ‘wake-up call’ about systemic racism: Trudeau

Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday on all three charges against him

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Suspension of Barney Williams would be reversed if he complies with certain terms

Most Read