COLORADO SPRINGS — Since September, wildfires across Australia have taken the lives of two dozen people, burned over a thousand homes, and new numbers have been reported from an Australian scientist estimating around a billion animals have died.
News5 researched what organizations are reliable to donate to, and how you can check if other fundraisers are legitimate.
The shocking images coming out of Australia made one Lieutenant from the Colorado Springs Fire Department think back on the destruction caused by the Waldo Canyon Fire. He said the resources provided by the community made all the difference when battling that blaze.
"It's quite warming to know that we were appreciated like that, as well as the people that were evacuated to have those resources in place, to assist them as well," said Lt. Peter Johnson, who has been with the Colorado Springs Fire Department for around 20 years.
When interested in making donations to try and help the Australian bushfires, Adah Rodriguez of the Better Business Bureau said everyone should research the organization that would receive the money.
"Unfortunately disaster is an opportunity that scammers take advantage of... Where is it going? How is it getting there? Asking those really tough questions that if someone has really thought through their plan to solicit donations, they're going to be able to have those answers to them," said Rodriguez, who is the Vice President of Development and Operations with the local Better Business Bureau.
Rodriguez said making donations directly to organizations is safer than ones that may randomly pop up in a social media feed.
"I don't want to deter people from donating, because I think it's incredibly important for people to give when they can, especially in disasters such as this. I just think it's really important to research and feel confident about where you're donating," Rodriguez said.
One of the organizations Rodriguez recommended was the Australian Red Cross. Executive Director of the Southeastern Colorado Chapter of the American Red Cross Thomas Gonzalez said the Australian chapter has 69 emergency shelters currently open across the country.
Gonzalez also said they have processed 30,000 registrations, which are people essentially letting them know they are alive and well. However, there are still 5,000 people who have contacted the Australian Red Cross to try and find their missing loved ones.
"In regards to the 5,000 people that have made inquiries about trying to find where their loved ones are, if they're okay, where they're staying, that's sizable to our hurricanes that we've had in Texas or on the east coast," Gonzalez said.
As of midday today we have raised over $42 million! This is absolutely incredible! Thank you to everyone who has donated to our Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund! Your donations are already helping people: https://t.co/ehKDyENOrr— Australian Red Cross (@RedCrossAU) January 8, 2020
The Australian Red Cross reported their Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund has raised around $42 million so far. Their Twitter, @redcrossAU, posts updates about their efforts regularly.
Some organizations that have already been vetted include: The Australian Red Cross, The Salvation Army, WIRES, The Worldwide Wildlife Fund, The St. Vincent de Paul Society, RSPCA NSW, Vets Beyond Borders, Country Fire Authority, NSW Rural Fire Service.
If you want to check on the legitimacy of other fundraisers, several websites can help. Those include: BBB.org, charitynavigator.org, guidestar.org, and give.org. Give.org also has more detail on how to choose where you donate at this link.