BYU Tennis’ Jack Barnett discusses Australian fires

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BYU men’s tennis player Jack Barnett has felt the effects of the Australian bushfires over the last four months.

Barnett is originally from the east side of Australia, known as the sunshine coast, but came to BYU as a freshman in fall semester 2019. Shortly after he arrived in Provo, the Australian bushfires ignited across his home country.  

Barnett’s father, mother and sister still reside in Australia and are seeing the full-range of effects the fires are having. Barnett said there are some fires that were originally close to his family but have since been put out or contained. When speaking of his family’s encounter with the bushfires he said, “They had to leave, actually, in around October or September.” 

When asked how the fires have affected him throughout this semester, Barnett said that they have had a drastic impact on him because his family had to evacuate. Thoughts of his home burning down have crossed his mind. Housing in Australia has been affected by the fires, and many people have evacuated to different parts of Australia because of the natural disaster. Barnett said he still has thoughts of things turning out badly for his family.

His family was able to return home, and they were left relatively unharmed by the immediate effects of the fire. Since their return, Barnett said the fires haven’t affected him as much, but he still worries.

This fire season is the most devastating on record, with almost one billion animals killed and 14 million acres destroyed, according to Business Insider. The fires started because of a prolonged drought that began in 2017. When the official bushfire season started, the dry air instigated the flames and caused the fires to spread more rapidly. Some of the fires were started by natural causes like lightning, but a few were caused by humans. 

While the fires were burning, Barnett was training and playing in tennis invitational tournaments with BYU almost every weekend in November.

In this Dec. 31, 2019, photo provided by Siobhan Threlfall, a fire approaches the village of Nerrigundah, Australia. The tiny village has been among the hardest hit by Australia’s devastating wildfires, with about two-thirds of the homes destroyed and a 71-year-old man killed. (AP Photo/Siobhan Threlfall)

BYU Men’s Tennis Coach Brad Pearce said the most important thing in helping a player through trying personal circumstances is to listen to players and let them feel heard. When players are far from home and family, Pearce said having someone they can talk to can make all of the difference.

“As coaches, we are all striving to be better in this area, making connections in their personal lives and showing them that we care about the whole person, not just the player,” Pearce said.

The efforts to help the firefighters and people of Australia have been getting a lot of media attention recently, but Barnett said these fires have actually been going on for months and people have been struggling throughout the entire fire season, which started in September.

He said that while the new attention to the cause is great, he hopes the momentum continues and people keep talking about what is going on in Australia.

“Even if you are just sharing a post on Facebook or Instagram or also if someone is able to donate money, both help a lot because there are a lot of firefighters who are risking their lives and people’s houses have burned down,” Barnett said.

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