By: Lanetra Bennett | WCTV Eyewitness News
January 14, 2020
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- A Tallahassee couple just got back from Australia.
Their dream vacation was plagued with thoughts of the nightmarish wildfires.
"The only reason I wanted to go was because of the kangaroos and the koalas. I wanted to pet one so bad," Debra Panebianco said.
She did get to pet kangaroos and koalas during her and her husband's 12-day vacation in Australia. But, it was bittersweet, knowing millions of animals died in the country's brush fires.
"Fire wise, it's the worst I've ever seen and heard of," said Louis Panebianco.
The Panebianco's had to rearrange their pre-planned trip to try to avoid the fires.
But even at more than 100 miles away, they knew the impact.
"When we got to Sydney, you could see that haze and smell the smoke. People were walking around with their masks on. Lots of that," Mr. Panebianco said.
The couple flew over the fires going from Sydney to Melbourne.
When asked if it looked like the images on television where the sky was literally red, they said, "It was like that, from the airplane it was like that."
Mr. Panebianco works out of California regularly, and says he often tells people, "Fires to me are a lot more scarier than hurricanes. Hurricanes are at least a little bit predictable."
Mrs. Panebianco was happy to get her wish to pet the native animals.
The wish the couple leaves behind for Australia, "Rain. Hope for rain. Yes, rain," they both said.
The couple says it did make them feel good to see American firefighter arrive to assist in Australia.