The Edmonton community is rallying to bring home a retired firefighter who contracted a rare virus and fell into a coma in Thailand in January.

Bill Hughes was on vacation in Southeast Asia when he was hospitalized for a mosquito-borne infection known as Japanese Encephalitis, his family says in an online post.

Since then, he's remained unconscious and in-care overseas.

His daughter flew to Thailand to watch over him, but now the family is struggling to pay their way home.

"The cost is quite substantial," said Greg Holubowich, Hughes' former co-worker and the current president of the Edmonton Firefighters' Union. "The evacuation could be upwards of $200,000."

Hughes' family says they've already had to sell off some of their personal possessions to pay for travel and medical fees, and now they're turning to the public for help.

As of Monday morning, supporters had raised more than $30,000 in an online fundraiser, and the firefighters' union said it was looking into launching additional fundraisers of its own.

For now, supporters are asking Edmonton residents to consider lending a hand to a man who spent his life helping others.

"(Bill is) an excellent person, (who) gave back to the community throughout his career," Holubowich said. "I would hope Edmontonians would find a way to help Bill now in his time of need."

With files from CTV Edmonton