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Australians in Portland feeling the devastating impacts of Australia’s bushfires

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    PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) — Australians here in Portland are feeling the devastating impacts of bushfires across the country.

Gina Lutes is from Sydney and now lives in Portland, but she goes back home every year. She has friends in Australia who have had to evacuate, friends who could have to leave their homes at a moment’s notice, and friends who are on the front lines of these firefighting efforts.

“I’ve had to pull back a little bit because you can just get so caught up in it,” Lutes said. “I feel very helpless and feel very, very sad.”

Lutes grew up in Sydney, which is part of New South Wales and the southeastern coast of Australia that has seen some of the worst of the bushfires.

“We have bushfires every summer and they can ring Sydney,” she said. “I remember being there and you can see red all around but nothing like this.”

She’s been talking to loved ones who are there, like Emma McPherson and Julie Macken.

Macken is a volunteer firefighter who’s been working to stop the spread of some of these relentless fires.

“These fires are just unputoutable so once it heats up again once the westerlies come through it all kicks off again,” Macken said. “There is nothing worse than sitting like a stunned mullet watching a crisis completely demolish the places you love, the people you love, of course, I’m lucky that I can jump in a big red fire engine and do something about it.”

And McPherson is on what’s called a Watch and Act, meaning she’s ready to evacuate her home if need be.

“We’re surrounded by smoke. We have fires and alerts that are coming up to us all the time to let us know what’s happening in our region, and that’s really where we sit in a sort of limbo and trying to encourage people not to panic and think safely,” McPherson said.

Lutes keeps in touch as best she can – thinking of her family, friends and home in such a difficult time.

“Australia’s a beautiful country, and it’s so sad to see it being destroyed and it’s going to take years for it to come back,” Lutes said.

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