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Australian Business Owners Organize Bushfire Benefit in Easton
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EASTON, Pa. (WLVT) - The bushfires in Australia have destroyed millions of acres of land. So far, the extent of the damage covers twice the size of Maryland, according to the Associated Press.

Ten thousand miles away in Easton, Australian business owners are teaming up to help their homeland heal.

"We all know someone," said Jason Hoy, owner of an Australian cafe called Tucker Silk Mill. "We’re a small country with a small population. We all know someone is affected directly by the bushfires.”

Hoy lived all around Australia for forty years before moving to Easton three years ago.

"When I grew up as a kid, we would have bushfires, and they were fast," he explained. "They were low intensity, and they were a normal thing within the landscape. Trees need them to survive. It was a way of regenerating the landscape. Bushfires now are out-of-control, monster fires that decimate forests and millions of acres of land.”

Lisa Yelagin is the co-owner of Pie + Tart on Northampton Street in downtown Easton. She grew up in New South Wales, where bushfires have destroyed 771 homes since January 1, according to the state's Rural Fire Service.

"Since the fires started, I've been very conscious of where they've been going. I've been following the maps," she said, adding that some of her family members have had to evacute. "They've been on the highways going back to see whether their house is still there, and it is, but many homes around them were gone."

Hoy and Yelagin said bushfire season usually starts in January during Australia’s summer time. These fires have been burning since September.

"Normally, it would be, go away for a weekend or a couple of days and put out a fire," Hoy said, "and now it's six weeks, seven weeks, and these people coming back broken like they're on the front line of a war."

"As it escalated, I did a little bit of shutting down," Yelagin added, "and I found myself getting very weepy, and I stopped looking at the news, because I was conscious of what my friends and family were going through."

The two are organizing a free community event at Tucker Silk Mill on Sunday, January 19 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. They’re calling it "Pies and Pavlovas."

"We’ll be providing cakes and scones and tea and coffee and some beer and wine perhaps," Hoy said.

"I'm going to make some pies, good old Aussie meat pies, and have an auction," Yelagin said. "We've got many, many donations already of things that local people would like to donate."

All proceeds will benefit the New South Wales Rural Fire Service.

"It definitely helps to go straight to them, so they can buy masks and ventilators, so they can keep their trucks up to date, so they can pay a small amount of money to the volunteers, so that they can pay their rent and they can continue to fight fires," Hoy said.

"I know that there were different charities on Facebook. You can hit the donate button. Sometimes, you're not quite sure where it's going," Yelagin said. "I think people trust Jason and I. We're Australian. We've bought an Australian community spirit to Easton."

While the benefit is still more than a week away, it's gathered a lot of interest already.

"It helps people," Hoy said. "You may not know them, but there will be a day where you may need some help yourself, and it's nice to know that people are around that you don't know that will help you."

For more information about the event, click HERE.