CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Officials estimate nearly 20 million acres have burned from the bushfires in Australia and fires could continue burning for months.
Gal Stern, an Australian exchange student, just arrived at the College of Charleston a week ago to take classes. Before he left Australia, he decided to stop running outside because of the harsh smoke spreading throughout the area.
“I actually have a friend, he lives a few hours out of Sydney west in a place called Bowral," Stern said. "He goes to school with me and his house has been affected by the fire. It sounds terrible. It’s really inconvenient. His family has to move somewhere into other houses....honestly, the emotional trauma just on its own is terrible.”
Stern says thankfully his family is okay and is in an area that's away from the fires, but they are still impacted by the smoke and limiting their time outdoors as well.
He says when he left home mid-December the fires were just picking up, but it was not expected that they would get to the point they are now.
“I’ve lived in Australia almost my whole life and it hasn’t been an issue to this level ever,” Stern said. I want people to know that although this is a really big country [Australia] we still have a big sense of community, people are always willing to help each other out and make sure we’re all not left behind."
They’re mostly caused by fire and extreme heat but arrests have also been made for arson.
Officials there estimate about 24 people have died and that fires have destroyed more than a thousand homes and killed millions of animals.
Stern will remain in Charleston for one semester and is continuing to get updates from his family on conditions. He’s hoping for more rain to help contain the fires.
Stern says the contributions made by American celebrities means a lot and helps with awareness. He encourages others to donate to the fire departments fighting fires in Australia.