Australian bushfires: Firefighters spend Christmas Day containing blaze as communities, leaders thank them for their service over the holidays

Australian firefighters used cooler conditions on Christmas Day to try and contain bushfires ahead of hot, dry weather later in the week, as leaders and communities thanked them for sacrificing time with their families over the holidays

Reuters December 26, 2019 08:08:17 IST
Australian bushfires: Firefighters spend Christmas Day containing blaze as communities, leaders thank them for their service over the holidays
  • Australian firefighters used cooler conditions on Christmas Day to try and contain bushfires ahead of hot, dry weather later in the week, as leaders and communities thanked them for sacrificing time with their families over the holidays

  • Christmas Day offered cooler conditions in many parts of the country as firefighters, many of them volunteers, spent the day trying to contain blazes

  • Intense heat is forecast to return again by the weekend, especially in Australia’s south, where temperatures are expected to exceed 40 degrees Celsius

Melbourne: Australian firefighters used cooler conditions on Christmas Day to try and contain bushfires ahead of hot, dry weather later in the week, as leaders and communities thanked them for sacrificing time with their families over the holidays.

In the state of New South Wales (NSW), which saw entire towns devastated by fires over the weekend, state premier Gladys Berejiklian and the head of the NSW rural fire service, Shane Fitzsimmons, attended a breakfast organized by volunteers in the small town of Colo, 90km (55 miles) northwest of Sydney.

Australian bushfires Firefighters spend Christmas Day containing blaze as communities leaders thank them for their service over the holidays

NSW Rural Fire Service crew fight the Gospers Mountain Fire as it impacts a property at Bilpin, New South Wales state, Australia. AP

“Community volunteers provided food, company, conversation, wrapped presents & hampers to share for crews heading into the field,” Fitzsimmons tweeted. “It was just lovely and spirits were high.”

Christmas Day offered cooler conditions in many parts of the country as firefighters, many of them volunteers, spent the day trying to contain blazes.

Intense heat is forecast to return again by the weekend, especially in Australia’s south, where temperatures are expected to exceed 40 degrees Celsius.

The last few months have seen more than 900 homes lost across the dry continent, according to authorities, even though the southern hemisphere summer has not yet reached its mid-point.

The fires have destroyed more than 3.7 million hectares (9.1 million acres) across five states and at least six people have died in NSW and two in South Australia during the bushfire emergency.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison used a Christmas message to thank volunteers for their willingness to spend the day away from their families.

“As we look forward to next year and as we celebrate this Christmas I want to thank all of those who serve our nation,” Morrison said in a video shared on social media on Wednesday morning.

Morrison has faced sustained political pressure as the bushfires have raged, following his decision to take a family holiday to Hawaii last week and his conservative Liberal-National coalition government’s climate policies.

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