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Bethenny Frankel planning to send planes filled with American firefighters to Australia to battle wildfires

Bethenny Frankel aims to send firefighters to Australia
Bethenny Frankel says she's planning to send planes full of firefighters to Australia 02:11

Entrepreneur  Bethenny Frankel was one of the first civilians to send a plane filled with aid to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2017. From this mission, her bstrong Foundation was formed. 

Since then, Frankel and bstrong have responded to several natural disasters, including volcanic eruptions in Hawaii and Guatemala, hurricanes in Mexico and the Caribbean, and now, the wildfires in Australia

Millions of acres have burned since September, destroying thousands of homes and killing at least 25 people. In addition, wildlife experts estimate more than 1 billion animals have been killed by the unprecedented fires spreading across the continent. Aid has started pouring in from around the world.

Earlier this week, Frankel wrote on Instagram that her team was in "strategy mode with a plan to effectively and efficiently aid Australia in this crisis." She sat down with CBSN to discuss the plans.

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My team is in strategy mode with a plan to effectively and efficiently aid Australia in this crisis, which affects our entire planet. . Aside from my personal connection to and love for Australia, this is an international crisis. . These fires have burned 13 m acres, 6x that of the Amazon.  A region the size of a small country is destroyed, killing humans, wildlife, and animals & rages on, midway through fire season. . Last year #bstrong distributed hundreds of ks of dollars in cash cards for CA Wildfire survivors. We outfitted 400+ volunteer firefighters in the Amazon for 3 mos. We’re still knee deep in recovery efforts in the Bahamas. . This is the world’s largest environmental disaster in history. There are more than half a billion animals perished. Thousands of people have evacuated and are in shelters & homeless. . We have a multi-tiered plan supporting existing fire fighting teams, while creating and outfitting more teams. This is critical since the current number of firefighters and this fire are David and Goliath. . When comparing the current number of firefighters in Australia to other massive wildfires, we see where the void is. . We are in direct talks with the executive directors of various Fire Services and are working directly with them to enhance their workforce and equipment. . We will visit shelters to distribute aid and cash cards to those who have lost everything. . We will provide aid for the suffering animals in need. . Our #bstrong @globalempowermentmission teams are mobilizing efforts now with our on ground partners. . Please donate today on my bio-link so that we can all make a difference together. As always 💯% of donations goes directly to aid firefighters and victims. Please be aware and knowledgeable about where you donate. Disasters are breeding grounds for corruption, disorganization and the misappropriation of funds. Make sure you know where your money is going as it is an investment. Bstrong has been immersed in disaster relief in areas including Texas, Mexico, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, California, the Bahamas, the Amazon and areas all over the world. We have a plan, a purpose, support, and as always, we have you. Xo #thisisacrisis

A post shared by Bethenny Frankel (@bethennyfrankel) on

"The first phase to the bstrong initiative in Australia was to be organized," Frankel said. "It's such a crisis, it's such a devastation, it's so urgent ... but before we started to ask people for money, we had to have a really, really clear-cut, multi-tiered plan." 

bstrong has turned into a major philanthropic endeavor for the entrepreneur, who runs the foundation the way she does her businesses. "Like anything else, you have to work smart. You have to be efficient," she said. Frankel wants donors to know that 100% of the money bstrong receives during this time will go toward fighting the Australian wildfires. 

While she said her team is still in the "hunting and gathering" phase of their mission, the ultimate goal is to send American firefighters to Australia.

Bethenny Frankel said her foundation has talked to airlines about partnering to help fight the wildfires in Australia. CBS News

"We're working on airline partners. We've talked to Quantas, we've talked to United, which seemed very interested in helping and they were generous enough to help Ellen [DeGeneres]," she said. "That would be wonderful. For an American airline to help us, like United, would be beautiful." 

On Friday she said on her Instagram stories that she was currently in talks with United Airlines as a potential partner. 

Frankel told CBS News that U.S. firefighters are currently coordinating with Australian firefighters, and her foundation will hopefully be able to fly these volunteers, along with donated supplies, to Australia within the next few days. "Ultimately, hundreds of firefighters [will] rotate in and out of Australia," she said.

bstrong and one of its partners, Global Empowerment Mission (GEM), have a warehouse in Miami where they store emergency supplies, ready to deploy during the next disaster. Because of this location, the organizations have strong ties to Miami firefighters, Frankel said.

"We have big Florida firefighter connections," she said. "We can get a really strong commitment from the Florida firefighters, particularly Miami." Frankel said they have also received interest from fire departments across the U.S., who offered to donate surplus gear. 

According to the foundation's website, bstrong is maintaining several ongoing relief missions. As with their missions in the Amazon and Caribbean, the disaster in Australia is ongoing — and Frankel says bstrong will be present until the job is done.

"There are people who have no antiseptic, no power, no generators, they have no dignity. They really have lost everything," she said. "So we will help animals, we will help people in shelters and eventually give them cash cards. And we will stay long after the headlines fade and help with the rebuild."

Frankel, who is the founder and CEO of the lifestyle brand Skinny Girl, has businesses in several industries, from alcohol to publishing to investing and reality TV. She said, however, that bstrong has changed her life. 

"I'm more aware of what's going on in the world. ... When people are having a really hard time and have experienced the lowest in their life and lost everything, I see that," she said. "I look at my daughter [9-year-old Bryn] and I see her blessed life differently."

"It's amazing to know how much you can make a difference," she added. "It's magical. It's contagious." 

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