ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Thousands of Australians are evacuating their homes as the country braces for more brush fires. So far, the fires have burned more than 25 million acres, destroyed more than 2,000 homes and killed at least 26 people. Some experts estimate as many as 500 million animals will die as a result of the fires.
Heavy smoke and massive flames in Australia have people in the Bay Area wanting to help.
From students and volunteers cutting out fabric pouches for injured baby kangaroos to WWE superstar Titus O'Neill matching donations, people in the Bay Area are doing what they can to help.
"This is the way to help. Either that or donate money," St. Petersburg College student Sarah Stancil said.
"Right now, they're just needing funds to build more hospitals and shelters for these animals," O'Neil said.
O'Neil is a close friend to the Irwin family, who own the Australian Zoo. He's been in close contact with family friend Chris Powell who's in Australia helping the Irwins care for injured animals coming into the zoo's wildlife hospital.
"Fruit bats, the volume is up tremendously. Koalas, the volume is up tremendously. Even though the direct threat is not in this area, it's actually a safe zone for caring for animals. They need more facilities to handle the volume," Powell said.
Since opening in 2004, the Irwins estimate they've treated more than 90,000 animals at their hospital - most recently caring for the influx of animals injured in the wildfires.
Koalas are among the animals most at risk.
"They are an endearing, iconic, Australian species and you know the way their anatomy is they are a little slow-moving so they have been hit hard with that ability to get out of the way of the fire," Zoo Tampa VP of Conservation Lee Ann Rottman said.
Students at St. Pete College spent Friday cutting up fabric to make pouches for baby kangaroos and koalas.
At the Florida Aquarium, every ticket sold this Saturday will go to the Australian Zoo. Titus O'Neill plans to match every ticket sold up to $25,000.
"It just made sense to support and try and do everything I could from this end to help them over there," O'Neil said.