The bushfires currently raging in Australia are among the worst in the nation’s history, and since the fire season began in late July, they’ve devastated large swaths of the country—we won’t know the true extent of the crisis until after the fires have died down.
It’s been estimated that more than 10.7 million hectares of Australian land have been burned. At least 29 people have died and thousands of homes have been lost. New South Wales has declared a state of emergency and Victoria a state of disaster, and major fires continue to rage across the forests and natural areas in South Australia and Western Australia.
The impact on wildlife has been equally devastating with 1.25 billion animals estimated to have been killed across Australia to date. This includes thousands of koalas and other iconic species such as kangaroos, wallabies, kookaburras, cockatoos, and honeyeaters, and many thousands more injured and homeless.
As I’ve watched the situation unfold here in Brisbane, the entire WP Engine team is grieving over the loss of life and homes, as well as all the injuries, pain, and suffering caused by the bushfires. Personally, I’ve had several friends who have twice been evacuated from their homes to emergency shelters with their young children. And while we are thankful for the relief the rain today provided, the fact is the bushfire season is far from over and the wildlife, nature, and community recovery efforts will last long beyond that.
But we are not helpless. I’m fortunate to work for a company that takes its obligation to society and to its communities seriously. Through WP Engine’s Engine for Good initiative and specifically its Open Hearts charity pillar, I’m proud to say we’ve been able to mobilise a strong fundraising effort across all of our global offices, directed at supporting bushfire relief efforts. As of this blog post, in less than a week, WP Engine employees around the world raised more than $18,000 for the Australian Red Cross, which is quite literally on the front lines of the bushfire fight.
Since the fires broke out in July, the Australian Red Cross has been supporting people at evacuation and relief centres, registering people so their loved ones can contact them, providing psychological first aid to reduce trauma and distress, providing food, water, and relief items to people cut off by fires in Victoria, conducting welfare checks on the phone and in-person, and providing emergency grants to people who have lost homes to bushfires.
Through our fundraising efforts, we’ve been able to help the Red Cross support all of the above initiatives, and hopefully, offer some relief to those who have been affected by this horrible situation. And we’re not done yet, we’ll continue to examine how we, as WP Engine, can further do our part to help those affected cope with and recover from this disaster.
Our employees around the globe are following the situation closely, and our Aussie employees who now work in other countries are paying particularly close attention to all of the developments back home.
Lauren Cox, who’s originally from Brisbane and now works full-time as WP Engine’s Director of Internal Communications at our headquarters in Austin, Texas told me the situation has been terribly gut-wrenching to see, especially from thousands of miles away.
“Thankfully my family is safe,” she said, ”but friends back home are dealing with the bushfires more or less nonstop, so being able to do something to help, even from halfway around the globe, is the least I can do.”
Since 2014, WP Engine employees have volunteered more than 6,400 hours and raised $320,000 for organisations in their local communities. In 2019 alone, WP Engine employees volunteered 1,400+ hours and personally donated more than $155,000 across dozens of community organisations and events globally including Central Texas Food Bank, Parkinson’s Queensland, Dam That Cancer, Qendo, Help for Heroes, Great Ormond Street Hospital, Movember, The Pieta House, The Thinkery and many others.