For most Canadians, the scenes of the devastating wildfires in Australia are shocking to watch from afar. But for Hollie Fraser, it’s gutting.
The owner of Burnaby’s Punk Rock Pastries, a popular new bakery on Hastings Street, says her parents’ home in Bawley Point, New South Wales is near the ignition point of the wildfires, which have killed at least two dozen people and millions of animals and destroyed thousands of homes.
Fraser said her dad stayed to protect his home for as long as he could, but was eventually forced to evacuate the immediate area.
“I’ve had friends lose their houses and lose everything, and sitting back and watching my hometown burn is probably the worst thing that’s ever happened,” Fraser said. “It’s horrible not to be able to do anything, to feel absolutely helpless.”
Fortunately for Fraser’s family, the local volunteer firefighters saved the family home for now – and Fraser couldn’t say enough good things about those firefighters.
“These guys outdid themselves,” she said.
But the disaster continues to press on in her home community: With the temperature flaring up, so are the fires, and the resources are running low or gone, from water tanks to internet connection to food.
“My dad just had surgery on his arm, so he’s pretty much helpless,” Fraser said. “He’s run out of medication; he’s in a lot of pain. And I feel like I’m a sitting duck, and I feel like I’m absolutely helpless. It’s horrible. It’s the worst feeling in the world.”
That being said, Fraser hasn’t been entirely helpless. She’s managed to raise $800 for the firefighters serving Bawley Point and another neighbouring community, through Punk Rock Pastries’ tip jar, donations and cupcake specials, as well as donating a portion of sales from last Saturday.
“They need every penny they can get. I’m putting out whatever feelers I can,” Fraser said.
She even tried to get the hashtag #sendthecanadianwaterbombers trending. That wasn’t exactly successful, by Fraser’s own admission, but she said she’s happy to see more Canadians and others from around the world heading to her home country to help fight the fires.
But she’s also upset that she needs to raise the money in the first place. She notes Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has received heavy criticism from around the country for doing too little too late on the matter.
“Damn right,” she said of that criticism. “He literally did dig his own grave. He wasn’t there when the Australian people needed him, unfortunately, and now he has to pay the consequences for that.”
Ive been coping a lot of backlash about posting things like this so to all those people who told me to "shut up and bake" (instore and online) please unfollow us! My instagram, my business my family!!! Ill post what I want! In other news We are up to $150 in donations today and it's still early thank you everyone who has donated your are amazing!! #punkrockpastries #therealpunkrockpastries #baking #burnabyBC #weird #weirdpastries #makevancouverweird #yvrchef #yvrfood #punkbakery #punkgirlbakescakes #horrorbakery #notyourboringbakery #bake #bakery #helpingmycountry #aussieslivingincanada
Although she’s had tremendous support for her regular Instagram posts pushing for help for her home community, she’s also had some pushback. Two customers came to her store to tell her to stop posting about Australia and to focus on her work, while four others have messaged her online to say the same.
She acknowledges the gendered context of people essentially telling women to “shut up and bake,” as she put it in an Instagram post, but she said those people are messing with the wrong woman.
One of the customers who complained in person, a regular, was told not to come back to the store, and she’s kept up with her Instagram posts – which still receive plenty of support from her followers.
Fraser said she’s doing cupcake specials all this week, and she’s planning a fundraiser for Australia Day at her shop on Jan. 26.