Jewish Australians make 435-mile trek to help victims of massive brush fires


SYDNEY (JTA) — Two Jewish men from Perth used Facebook to help the victims of fires that destroyed a western Australian town and claimed two lives.

Shmoo Burnie, 34, and Daniel Gerson, 35, took to social media to generate support for the victims of the massive bush fires, which have destroyed over 130 homes in Yarloop, in Australia’s Southwest. They drove some 435 miles in one day to deliver the donated goods.

“This story is not about us,” Burnie told JTA, adding “it’s about the wonderful response we got from the Facebook post … from our friends and those they shared the call for help with.”

The men needed two large pick-up trucks and a cage trailer to get the relief items to a collection point near the fire zone. The passenger seats in their vehicles also were jammed with goods.

The one-day round trip took Burnie, a mortgage broker, and Gerson, a financial planner, nearly 13 hours — a detour around the fire area added about 3 1/2 hours.

“We were just a couple of people wondering what we could do to help and figured we could ask people for things which could help those in trouble, grab a couple of [vehicles] … and drive the donations down,” Burnie said.

The men delivered food, toiletries, clothes, bed linens, blankets, towels, sleeping bags, toys and pet supplies, including combs for family animals that may have been affected by the fires.

“We saw smoke from fires on the drive down, but they would not have been from the devastated area,” Burnie said. “There are fires burning in other regions. The whole point of the long detour was to avoid the fires.”

He added: “We asked people for help. They helped. We packed. We went. We unpacked. We came home. We were just drivers. It was a big group effort.”

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