Exhausted Australian firefighters said on Monday they had finally brought the country’s largest “megablaze” under control, as wet weather promised to deliver much-needed respite for countryside ravaged by bushfires.
New South Wales firefighters said they finally had the upper hand in the fight against the vast Gospers Mountain fire on Sydney’s northwestern outskirts, which has been burning out of control for almost three months.
Visiting the area on Monday, New South Wales Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said there was a “small area of burning still to complete” but the “containment prognosis looks promising.”
The fire seared an area of national park three times the size of Greater London and lit several connected blazes totalling over 800,000 hectares — an area larger than Austria.
As residents and authorities continued to come to grips with the sheer scale of the devastation, the Bureau of Meteorology forecast some firegrounds could get up to 50 millimetres (two inches) of rain in the next week, a relief after a prolonged drought.
If that forecast bears out, the New South Wales Rural Fire Service said, “then this will be all of our Christmas, birthday, engagement, anniversary, wedding and graduation presents rolled into one. Fingers crossed.”
Dozens of other fires are yet to be controlled.
The climate-change-fuelled fires have prompted an international outpouring and donations from around the world to help communities and animal populations.
Australia’s unique flora and fauna has taken a catastrophic hit, with an estimated one billion animals killed, and countless trees and shrubs burned away.
The country’s environment minister Sussan Ley has warned that in some areas, koalas may have to be reclassified as endangered.
This weekend, Sydney will host a star-studded charity gig to benefit fire services, the Red Cross and animal welfare organisations.
Headliners include Alice Cooper, Olivia Newton-John and Queen.