As fires continue to ravage Australia, how can you help?

Mark Puleo

As the Australian bushfires blaze past the 20-million-acres mark, the world has been captivated and heartbroken by the destruction of some of the planet's most beautiful areas. Burning in the popularly-visited states of New South Wales and Victoria, the blazes have destroyed at least 1,300 homes, trapped thousands of residents and vacationers and claimed at least 25 lives, according to officials.

The impacts of the disaster aren't confined to those two states, either, as smoke and poor air quality have inundated the rest of the country and hampered residents more than 1,200 miles away. Throughout the entire nation, fires have caused the deaths of nearly half a billion animals, including nearly a third of the entire koala population.

A number of celebrities have pledged support and raised money to help the firefighting efforts and animal rescues. Popstar Pink donated $500,000 to local fire services while Australian actress Nicole Kidman and her husband, Keith Urban, donated $500,000 as well. At a Golden Globes event on Saturday, Kidman was visibly distraught about the disaster and apologized to reporters.

Australian comedian Celeste Barber posted a photo on Instagram of dark-red skies outside her mother-in-law's windows and asked fans to donate to a fundraiser she started on Facebook. According to the Facebook page, the efforts have raised over $26 million, as of Monday afternoon.

Numerous athletes, including Australian-born Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers and American teenager LaMelo Ball, who is currently playing in the Australian National Basketball League, have also committed support to the efforts. Ball announced last week in a statement that he would be donating one month of his playing salary to the nation's fire victims.

The losses of lives, animals and properties have spurred one consensus question from millions of people around the world: How can we help?

A burnt koala named Anwen, rescued from Lake Innes Nature Reserve, receives formula at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital ICU in Port Macquarie, Australia November 7, 2019. Picture taken November 7, 2019. REUTERS/Stefica Nicol Bikes

The Australian Red Cross has been assisting thousands of evacuated Australians, including those in recovery centers. Anglo-Australian mining company Rio Tinto has reportedly donated over AU$1 million (about US$700,000) toward the charity, which will help carry out plans for long-term recovery efforts. Along with donations, the organization is also seeking volunteers.

For those looking to support firefighting efforts, the NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) and the Country Fire Authority in Victoria are both services receiving donations to help manage local firefighting efforts and provide accommodations for displaced residents. The NSW RFS also has a specific fund set up for people to assist the families of firefighters who have been killed by the blazes.

In this Monday, Dec. 30, 2019, aerial photo, wildfires rage under plumes of smoke in Bairnsdale, Australia. Thousands of tourists fled Australia's wildfire-ravaged eastern coast Thursday ahead of worsening conditions as the military started to evacuate people trapped on the shore further south. (Glen Morey via AP)

A number of groups are also accepting donations to help the wildlife rescue and recovery efforts. Wires is an Australian-based wildlife rescue group relying on the help of volunteers and donations, which can be made through its website. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in NSW, which has helped spearhead animal evacuation and rescue efforts, is also accepting donations and crucial items, such as blankets and towels to keep animals warm.

The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital and the World Wildlife Fund Australia have led the way in assisting koala rescue efforts throughout the disaster. The Koala Hospital has rescued dozens of koalas since October and raised over $4 million from nearly 33,000 people around the world through a GoFundMe page. The WWF-Australia has set up a specific koala-focused donation drive for the country, spreading awareness of the destroyed habitats and urging people to help.

"Koalas are heading towards extinction in New South Wales and southeast Queensland as early as 2050," the WWF webpage warns. "Will you help launch a critical and bold plan to save them, before it's too late?"

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