The sails of the Sydney Opera House have been lit up with a special thank you for NSW firefighters who have spent months battling catastrophic and deadly bushfires.
The projection includes images of firefighters, volunteers and other emergency crews from the fire grounds, as well as the many heartwarming messages of thanks that have been shared by affected communities.
Sydney Opera House CEO Louise Herron said the sails would be lit to show support for the communities affected by bushfires and to acknowledge the bravery of all the firefighters and other emergency services personnel battling the blazes across Australia.
“As difficult circumstances continue, we want to send a message of hope and strength to the people of Australia,” Herron said.
The display will continue until 11pm on Saturday night.
“Thank you to our amazing volunteers,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Twitter, sharing a photo of the Opera House display.
The NSW Rural Fire Service has also acknowledged the display as a “special tribute.”
“While there have been many people, agencies and groups involved in the bush fire effort, there is special recognition for NSW RFS volunteers who have given up their time to help others,” the organisation said.
On Saturday, the Opera House also announced a special outdoor performance gala to be held on March 16 to support bushfire relief efforts.
The ‘Comedy Steps Up For Bushfire Relief’ will feature a host of Aussie comedians including Arj Barker, Carl Barron, Urzila Carlson, Joel Creasey, Kitty Flanagan, Becky Lucas, Tim Minchin, Julia Morris and Harry Shearer.
All proceeds from ticket sales will go towards a number of organisations to help bushfire relief, including to the Australian Red Cross, the NSW Rural Fire Service, Wildlife Victoria and WIRES.
It’s one of many events being organised around the country to raise funds for bushfire relief. A huge Stand Up For Comedy event in Melbourne sold out within minutes earlier this week.
A major benefit concert is also being planned for February 16 in Sydney which is promised to bring a number of world-famous acts to the stage for the ‘Fire Fight Australia’ gig. Legendary rock group Queen most recently confirmed it had been approached to perform at the event.
It comes as a growing list of celebrities, including actors, musicians and sports stars, pledge huge donations to support fire-ravaged communities and Australia’s exhausted firies.
Aussie comedian Celeste Barber has made global headlines with her Facebook campaign which has far raised a staggering $50 million dollars in just one week.
While conditions on NSW firegrounds are expected to ease for the next week, authorities are still urging communities not to become complacent and to remain on alert.
Around 2,800 firefighters were still on the ground on Saturday afternoon working to build containment lines, with more than 130 fires still burning across the state.
Two fires remain on watch and act alert, following a horror Friday night which saw three blazes in the state’s south merge to form another mega-blaze.
By January 10, a total of 2,079 homes had been confirmed destroyed so far this season, more than half of which had been lost since January 1.
In some good news, the RFS announced on Saturday afternoon that the NSW south coast was “open for business” more than a week after tourists were told it was a ‘leave zone’.
“After assessments today, it has been decided that visitors may now return to areas of the Shoalhaven & South Coast,” the RFS said.
“People wishing to take advantage of the tourist areas are advised to contact their destination before setting off.”
Devastating fires have also ravaged Victoria, South Australia and parts of WA.
Most residents in Victoria’s bushfire-stricken areas were granted a reprieve on Saturday after hot temperatures and gusty winds wrought less carnage than feared on Friday.
While an emergency warning remains for a fire near Mt Hotham, the government has confirmed the Victorian state of disaster will end at midnight on Saturday.
But authorities stress the danger is far from over as 20 fires burn across the state and 12 ‘watch and act’ warnings – down from 16 on Saturday morning – remain in place.
Even the welcome rain that fell in some areas from Friday night brings its own problems, with the chance of flash flooding meaning a new deadly risk for firefighters.
Milder conditions are forecast for the next week to 10 days, meaning attention can turn increasingly to recovery and relieving exhausted emergency services workers.
Meanwhile, in South Australia, flare-ups are continuing across the Kangaroo Island fireground hampering efforts to complete damage assessments, but no people or property were under threat on Saturday.
The area burnt across the island has increased to more than 210,000 hectares inside a perimeter of 500 kilometres but initial indications are that some areas are not as badly impacted as first thought.
Across the island about 800 properties were still without electricity with SA Power Networks working to reconnect those customers.
Travel restrictions to Kangaroo Island have also been lifted though the CFS urged that if travel was not essential, it would best be postponed.
The CFS is also looking towards more hot weather across the fire ground from Monday when temperatures will once again hit 30C, while cooler conditions have been forecast for the rest of next week.
In WA, improved weather conditions have helped ease the bushfire threat in Perth’s south as firefighters managed to contain and control a blaze, which was accidentally sparked when a wheel came off a boat trailer.
At its peak, the blaze reached an emergency level but the warning has now been reduced to an advice level for Hopeland, Oldbury, Mardella, Serpentine, Baldivis and Wellard.
Firefighters are strengthening containment lines and undertaking safety checks of the roads.
Some roads remain closed and motorists are asked to avoid the area or slow down due to smoke.