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NSW bushfire season draws to a close

Ben Domensino, Tuesday March 31, 2020 - 12:07 EDT

Today marks the end of the 2019/20 bushfire season in NSW, drawing the curtains on the state's most devastating season on record.

Bush and grass fires scorched 5.5 million hectares of land in NSW this season, blackening an area that accounts for more than six per cent of the state. But while the sheer size of this season's fires were astonishing, the destruction they caused was unprecedented.

In total, fire destroyed 2,448 homes and claimed 25 lives, including three NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) volunteers and three US firefighters. These numbers were unrivalled in the state's history.

The fires also caused numerous days with reduced air quality as masses of smoke billowed across and away from the state. On some days, smoke drifted over the Tasman Sea and blanketed New Zealand. In January, NASA satellites detected smoke from Australia's fires that had circumnavigated the planet after passing over South America.

Image: Satellite image showing smoke drifting across the Tasman Sea and passing over New Zealand on December 5th, 2019.

But while this season's fires caused a lot of damage and heartache, they also brought communities together, both in Australia and around the world.

"While we've seen unprecedented fire activity, we've also seen an unprecedented response from the community” said NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons." 

"Responding to bush fires is a team effort, and the community across NSW is an important team member."

Despite the NSW fire season now coming to an end, the RFS State Operations Centre is still a hive of activity. Health officials, emergency services and supporting agencies are using the headquarters to run the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you were affected by the bushfires in NSW this season, help is available here: https://www.service.nsw.gov.au/campaign/bushfire-customer-care-service

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