DENVER — Headlines from a world away bring James Waddell back home.
“Well, it says, ‘If you can get out, get out: Alert issued ahead of spiking fire risk,’” Waddell said, reading the text from his laptop.
He clicked on stories Thursday from newspapers like The Age and The Australian and scrolled through photos of the bushfires that have burned since September.
“The fire conditions look like they’re going to get worse according to the rural fire service in New South Wales, so that’s really – that’s quite scary,” Waddell said, glancing up from the screen.
The Australian has lived in Denver for 15 years. Colorado is home, but so is Australia. Waddell has family in Perth and friends all over. He worries for friends on the east coast forced to evacuate.
"It's a bit heart-wrenching to watch from a distance, to be quite honest," he said.
Waddell's job with Bicycle Colorado keeps him busy, but he also has a duty to his home country. He's the honorary consul for Australia in Denver.
“The term honorary is honorary," he smiled. "I’m not a full-time consul diplomat."
Lately, his work as consul means answering phone calls from Coloradans wanting to help Australians impacted by the fires.
“Our two countries have been mates for a hundred years and times like this sort of really shows the strength in the mateship,” he said.
He's heard from schools, restaurants and bars offering up donations. He's taken calls from firefighters and tree trimmers willing to travel and offering their services.
"It’s a little overwhelming," Waddell said. "It’s very amazing to see the support that we’re receiving.”
The bushfires have burned an area twice the size of Maryland and killed at least 26 people. Not every headline or story is full of hope, but Waddell found one Thursday morning.
“A bunch of American firefighters have just arrived at Sydney airport and everybody’s – they’re getting a huge hero’s welcome there," Waddell said. "It’s pretty cool to see actually.”
The Denver Zoo said it will donate $5,000 to Zoos Victoria. Zoos Victoria animal care experts are providing care, food and water to animals injured in the fires. The Denver Zoo also announced it will match up to $5,000 from donations collected via its Field Conservation Fund.
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