A heroic firefighter who helped battle raging bushfires in Australia has shared a shocking photo of a completely burnt and blackened koala that tragically died trying to escape a deadly blaze.
The heartbreaking image was captured by brave volunteer firefighter Peter Luker while on his way to fight an out of control bushfire near his hometown of Fernvale, Queensland, last week.
“The poor little thing didn’t really have a chance. I think this koala has tried to escape the flames by running down into a nearby gully but it obviously didn’t make it,” Mr Luker said.
The 55-year old, who helps raise orphaned koala joeys from his home, said that being confronted with such a horrific and gut-wrenching sight bought a tear to his eye, as helping native animals has always been a cause that is close to his heart.
“It was really such a sad thing to see, and I did shed a tear when I saw it,” he said.
Now Mr Luker is sharing the harrowing shot in a bid to raise awareness of the devastating effect that the bushfires have upon local Australian wildlife.
“The fire that this koala was caught up in was an especially out of control blaze that had burnt right through to the top of the trees,” he said.
“It was a really dangerous fire, some of our guys almost got caught up in it as well,” he added.
The effect that the bushfires has had upon local Australian wildlife has also been devastating, with experts suggesting that the blazes have already killed hundreds of koalas and other native animals.
“It really hits home and makes you realise how vulnerable koalas are. I don’t think people realise how much they need our help,” Mr Luker said.
The Ipswich Koala Protection Society has started a GoFundMe page to help get their koala ambulance back on the road.
“We need to be everything we can to help all of our wildlife, especially at times like these,” Mr Luker said.
The Australian states of Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales have been brought to its knees by raging bushfires in recent weeks, with some reports claiming that the horror blazes have already claimed the lives of nine people.
NSW homes destroyed
Meanwhile, more than 2000 firefighters are making crucial preparations before conditions deteriorate again across NSW this weekend.
The NSW Rural Fire Service on Tuesday confirmed 873 homes have been destroyed this fire season and 2048 outbuildings have been razed, while another 353 homes have been damaged.
A further 100 homes are also believed to have been lost since Thursday, but they're still being assessed due to limited RFS access.
A total of 73 fires were burning throughout the state on Tuesday night, including the huge Gospers Mountain blaze northwest of Sydney, the Green Wattle Creek fire southwest of the city and the Currowan bushfire on the south coast.
Some 28 blazes remain uncontained.
“There's a lot of really difficult, challenging, risky work that continues to be going on and will continue to go on over the coming days, right through the Christmas period," RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told Sky News.
Christmas Day battle for SA firefighters
In SA Firefighters across the Adelaide Hills will use Christmas Day to try to bring a devastating bushfire under control.
Slightly milder conditions on Wednesday and on Boxing Day will give the Country Fire Service some chance of bringing the 25,000-hectare blaze fully to heel ahead of the looming deterioration in conditions.
A return to very hot weather with the mercury topping 40C has been forecast for the weekend, together with rising winds, that will have authorities on edge.
CFS Chief Officer Mark Jones said as the work continued to bring the fire under control, he was inspired by the efforts of his volunteers.
"You selflessly give your time, time away from your family, and you endure financial losses to put yourself in harm's way to protect the community," he said.
Mr Jones said about 200 firefighters would remain on the ground in the Hills on Wednesday and all those at home would be ready to spring into action.
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