Devastating wildfires continue to rage in southeastern Australia, claiming at least 24 lives, burning millions of acres of land, and killing an estimated half billion animals in New South Wales alone. And while the country experienced a dip in temperatures over the past few days, heat and wind are expected to rise later this week, sparking blazes.
While property and businesses have been damaged by the fires, several shoe brands headquartered in the country — such as R.M. Williams, Blundstone and Emu Australia — have so far avoided any direct impact.
The Blundstone team in Australia, reported its headquarters, manufacturing and warehouse facilities in Hobart and Melbourne have not shouldered any damages. However, shipping has been affected as some of the country’s main arterial roads have been closed and this will be an issue for some time. The company also noted some of its retail customers have been directly impacted and that it will need some time to determine exactly what that means for the business.
Meanwhile, the loss of life, homes and other forms of livelihood across Australia has been considerable, said the company, which has donated nearly $70,000 in the form of boots for volunteer firefighters and financial support to those people displaced due to the devastating impact of the fires.
Like Blundstone, Emu Australia shares the country’s grief. “We’re an ’ever natural’ brand, very closely connected to nature,” Keith Barnett, president of Emu Australia’s North America division, told FN. “It’s where our brand began; we get amongst it for our photo shoots and we take nature’s lead in our use of sustainable materials.”
He went on to say, “Our headquarters and factory located in the wool mill town of Geelong are fortunately safe at the moment. However, all at our Australian headquarters, including office staff, factory workers and warehouse team, have a connection to what’s happening and are doing what they can to help.”
Barnett noted that in the company’s home state of Victoria, there are still 31 fires burning. The government has deployed large-scale military assets including giant naval vessels to evacuate residents and holidaymakers along the Victorian coast.
While some areas are worse hit than others, he noted, the situation is omnipresent, with smoke haze continuing to impact residents across the entire state, adding, “With a month or more still to go in the fire season, everyone is on tenterhooks.”
However, he said, citizens have been encouraged by the outreach of support. “We are buoyed by the incredible response by Australians far and wide, as well as the global community who are digging deep to support all affected by the fires,“ said Barnett. “In particular, we recognize and are deeply grateful for the support from the countless number of Americans who have flown out to Australia to support us side by side. The volunteer firefighters, first responders and wildlife careers are working tirelessly throughout this crisis, and the support for them, and all others affected, demonstrates the Aussie spirit as its best, whether at home or abroad.”
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