A Jewish family in Australia relayed how they are managing the raging wildfires that have destroyed more than 1,300 homes and burned some 13.5 million acres across the country.
Martine and Gavin Folden, and their two children—Cisco, 9, and Yumi, 11—evacuated from their home and are now sleeping in a caravan in Berry, about 12 miles from their house nearly 90 miles from Sydney. With them are also two horses, two dogs and two cats.
“It’s apocalyptic, but we’re coping,” Martine Folden told JTA. “We’ve been here a couple of days, and we don’t know how long we will have to stay. Until the fire danger passes at least.”
The family was given permission to visit their home and check on farm animals left behind. So far, the fires have not reached their property.
Suburbs of cities, including Sydney and Melbourne, which are home to several million people and large Jewish communities, have additionally been hit by brush fires.
The moment an abandoned factory went up in flames in Batlow yesterday. Firefighters and locals were desperately trying to stop spot fires before they spread pic.twitter.com/Ns898YsXuK
— Lucy Hughes Jones (@LucyHughesJones) January 5, 2020
The fires are also taking a toll on business owners. The Foldens, who own the Kangaroo Valley restaurant in New South Wales and Martine, said, “This is the two-week period when we make a large portion of our income. So many businesses that are along the coast have been affected by the fires over the last two weeks.”
Meanwhile, more than 340 children were evacuated from the Chabad Youth Gan Yisroel camp near Mount Hotham in Victoria because fires were approaching the site. It’s currently summertime in Australia.
“There were fires over the mountain, and while there wasn’t an evacuation order, the advice from police was to leave,” camp director Rabbi Moshe Kahn, who also runs Chabad Youth Tzach, said of his decision to evacuate, reported The Australian Jewish News.
The children, ages 7 to 17, have returned to Sydney or Melbourne, and are participating in other programs.