SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Heartbreaking images of burned koalas and kangaroos inundated our news feeds over the weekend and the crisis in Australia was a major talking point at Sunday’s Golden Globes.
Now, half a million masks from Santa Barbara are on an airplane right now, headed to the other side of the world.
“When you hear about 5,000 people flying to the beaches and camping out on piers and having marine rescues it’s far beyond even what we’re accustomed to in California,” said Thomas Tighe, President and CEO of Direct Relief in Santa Barbara County.
Direct Relief’s Deputy Director of Emergency Response is based in Australia and CEO Thomas Tighe says they’ve been communicating with government officials and community groups in response to the bush fires.
“Australia always helps California, they share their air fighting equipment, it’s nice to be able to do something because they always have our backs,” said Tighe.
The nonprofit says when people need supplies during a disaster they’re typically unavailable and then there’s a rush.
"We got these because of the chronic shortages that occur when these wildfires break out in California," said Tighe.
Direct Relief had the largest stockpile of N95 fire masks made in the state.
“We’ve offered all 500,000 that we have currently on hand to folks in Australia and thankfully yesterday Qantas came through and said they’ll take them down free of charge today,” said Tighe.
Tighe knows masks won’t put out the flames but given what Santa Barbara and California have gone through, there’s a sense of community stretching across the world.