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‘It’s ... everything and it hurts’: Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles reflects on devastation of Australia bushfires

Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles, right, looks to pass the ball around Orlando Magic guard Terrence Ross (8) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Orlando, Fla.
John Raoux, AP

NEW ORLEANS — Australia native and Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles has felt helpless watching from afar as devastating bushfires ravage his home country.

Since September at least 24 people have died, more than 10 million acres have been scorched, upwards of half a billion animals killed and displaced, and despite recent rain, there is no end in sight for the wildfires that have forced thousands to evacuate and impacted Australian life on an unimaginable scale.

“It’s just devastating and obviously something that I wish was not happening,” Ingles said Monday morning. “What we can do now is bringing awareness and fundraising and just try to help and give recognition to the firefighters and volunteers that are risking their own lives to save other people.”

In an effort to help those affected by the fires, Ingles, along with the other Aussies in the NBA, have been working with the league to make a contribution and bring awareness to the situation.

Additionally, Ingles says he and the Jazz are planning to announce their own project.

“Obviously we can’t fly over there and get our hands dirty, as much as you would love to do that, but we’re working on some fundraising stuff that can hopefully make a big difference and be large enough to impact things,” he said.

It’s been difficult for Ingles and his wife, Renae, a renowned Australian netballer, to be on the other side of the world, waking up every morning to learn that things continue to get worse.

One of Ingles’ best friends, who started a winery from the ground up, lost everything. A hotel that the Ingles have fond memories of after staying there during an offseason getaway was leveled by the fires. Then there are the homes of friends and family that are in danger or already gone.

“Some of Renae’s old teammates from netball live out that way and are waiting to see if they’re going to lose their family home that they grew up in, and my friend who started the winery from scratch doesn’t know if he’ll even be able to start the business again,” Ingles said. “It’s the whole country and the wildlife and everything and it hurts.”

Australia and the NBA have long had deep connections. On opening night this season the second highest concentration of international players in the NBA hailed from the land down under.

Patty Mills, an Australian who plays for the San Antonio Spurs, completely revamped his Twitter profile to provide information and awareness of the current crisis in his home country with his Twitter bio reading, “Australia is burning. What you need to know about Australia’s bushfires. Encouraging unity & support for firefighters, wildlife and people affected.”

Ingles said if there is one silver lining it’s seeing his home country come together to help each other. Even people who don’t have a celebrity platform or social media reach that NBA players do have started fundraisers and are banding together to offer any kind of assistance they can.

One of the things that is most important to Ingles as the fires continue to rage in Australia, is providing assistance and recognition to the people who are working to stop the fires.

Ingles said he keeps reading stories about how the firefighters and emergency personnel are working around the clock fighting what seems like an indestructible monster all the while their own homes and families are in danger as well.

“They’re doing everything possible to save as much of their country as they can,” he said.

Though he wishes he could do more, Ingles is hoping the NBA’s work and his upcoming announcement with the Jazz will add a bit of relief for what has become a nightmare for so much of the country of Australia.