Australia

Australia firefighters thanked with Times Square billboard

A Times Square billboard shows the thank-you message to firefighters and the world for support in Australia's fires Image copyright NSWRFS
Image caption The fire service ran their message in Times Square

An Australian firefighting service has used a 21m (70ft) billboard in New York's Times Square to thank their local and American volunteers.

Mammoth fires which ravaged New South Wales (NSW) state were finally declared "contained" last week in an end to the worst bushfire season on record.

At least six firefighters were killed in the state, including three US crew.

The NSW Rural Fire Service said it had received an "incredible response" this season from helpers and the public.

"We wanted to say 'thank you' in the biggest way possible and take our message to the world," the service said.

Close to 90% of the firefighters battling the blazes this season had been volunteers. Australia's main bushfire agencies are funded by the government but rely on many trained volunteers.

Contingents from North America and New Zealand were also deployed to fight the blazes this summer.

"Imagine fighting a bushfire higher than this billboard," the sign reads.

"Thank you to the brave Australian and US firefighters defending Australia. And to the world for your support."

The thank you message was run on a billboard donated by the advertising company which owns it, the service said.

At least A$100m (£51m; $67m) in donations was raised around the world for the fire service and for other relief funds.

Heavy rainfall in the past fortnight helped douse and finally extinguish many blazes which had been burning for weeks.

NSW, Australia's most populous state, was worst-affected by the fires - some the size of small countries.

Firefighters watched a bushfire in New South Wales
Getty
NSW bushfires

  • 5.4 millionhectares of land burned

  • 2,439homes destroyed

  • 11,264bush or grass fires

  • 24mlitres of fire retardant used

Source: NSW RFS

Serious blazes were also seen in every other Australian state and territory this summer. At least 33 people died nationwide.

Hundreds of thousands were also affected due to bushfire smoke, which affected air quality in the cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane.

The unprecedented scale, frequency and intensity of the fires this year is the result of climate change, scientists say.

Australia's long-term average temperature has increased by over 1C since 1910, leading to an increase in dangerous fire weather conditions.

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Media captionUS firefighters applauded upon arrival in Australia

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