Kelowna animal rescuer headed to Australia nervous about what lies ahead | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna animal rescuer headed to Australia nervous about what lies ahead

FILE - In this image made from video taken on Dec. 22, 2019, and provided by Oakbank Balhannah CFS, a koala drinks water from a bottle given by a firefighter in Cudlee Creek, South Australia.
Image Credit: (Oakbank Balhannah CFS via AP, File)
January 07, 2020 - 2:30 PM

Animal rescuer Brad Pattison has thrown himself into the aftermath of natural disasters before, applying his specific skill set to the task of saving creatures in harm’s way.

With just one week until he takes off to Australia, however, this might be the first time he’s genuinely nervous about what lies ahead.

When he donated his time and efforts in Haiti and New Orleans there were corpses. He remembers, after Hurricane Katrina, walking by dogs and cats that had drowned and all that was left was an outline on the ground, “like somebody pulled the air out of them.”

The losses were significant and heartbreaking, but they would pale in comparison to what’s ahead in Australia. Estimates currently range from 800 million to 1 billion creatures have died as fires rip through the continent.

“When you are driving by a field with 400 sheep and they are all charred — it’s going to be difficult, not easy,” he said.

Brad Pattison is leading a team of five to help animals caught in the Australian bush fires.
Brad Pattison is leading a team of five to help animals caught in the Australian bush fires.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Brad Pattison

“One thing I learned from a news camera person, once, was he views everything as a movie… you (see it) and you go home and don’t carry it with you. That technique has been a saving grace for me.”

That said, his team of five — three from Kelowna, one from Waterloo and another from Kitchener, Ont. — will be speaking with a doctor who can give them the emotional tools to cope as the worst unfolds before them.

Pattison's team will be working with the Jirrahlinga Koala and Wildlife Sanctuary while in Australia for a mission that’s expected to last two weeks. 

“One of the things my team does is we put ourselves out there. We never say we’re the heroes and we’re coming to help you. It’s ‘what can we do to bring assistance to your community?’” he said.

“We’ve put out 25 emails to different organizations and we had nothing — then one said, ‘please come and help us.”

The team will land in Melbourne and will have an hour and half drive to the facility. From there it will take 24 hours to learn the environment and the landscape.

Pattison has experience with wildfire rescues as an Okanagan resident and he’s also experienced as an arborist, which helps him with tree rescues.

“Imagine that two-thirds of your body is hurt and you are petrified and in pain — these animals can’t get down the tree, their hands are burnt,” he said. “So we will go in and retrieve the animals.”

Koalas aren’t the only creatures that Pattison expects to help retrieve.

The rescue works with a variety of species.

And, he said, it’s not just the immediate rescue effort he’s thinking about as he endeavours to raise funds.

“The more money we get, the more ointment and more bandages we can get,” he said. “We’re dealing with burn victims, we are not dealing with broken limbs."

This crisis, he said, will go on for a long time after the fire has gone out.

If you want to make a donation to help fund the Pattison team's rescue mission in Australia, go to the GoFundMe web page here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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