Volunteer U.S. firefighters and their compatriots from around the world have been publicly thanked by Australia for their help over the past four months, courtesy of a billboard and video display in New York’s Times Square.
Mammoth fires which ravaged the country’s most populous state of New South Wales (NSW) were finally declared “contained” last week in an end to one of the worst bushfire seasons on record.
Their end came after a terrible summer in Australia that saw much of the East Coast go up in flames.
— George Roff (@JezRoff) December 6, 2019
At least six firefighters were killed in NSW, including three visiting water bomber aircrew who were among the 170 U.S. volunteers who gave up Christmas at home to help Down Under.
The NSW Rural Fire Service said it had received an “incredible response” this season from helpers and the public and wanted to express its appreciation in the most public way possible.
“We wanted to say ‘thank you’ in the biggest way possible and take our message to the world,” the service said.
The thank you message was run in a space donated by outdoor advertising outlet Silvercast, while ad agency Wunderman Thompson created the video itself.
We wanted to say a big “thank you” to all the firefighters who have worked so hard over the last few months, and to the community for its support. And when we say big, we mean big – 70 feet tall in Times Square, New York. #nswrfs #nswfires #NewYorkCity pic.twitter.com/HT4vQEgkg4
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) February 19, 2020
The billboard is 60-foot high and in front of the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, one of the busiest pedestrian thoroughfares in the world.
Close to 90 percent 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 Canada and New Zealand were also deployed alongside their U.S. compatriots to fight the blazes around the country.