American firefighters were welcomed with applause and cheers in the Sydney, Australia, airport this week as they arrived with gear in hand to help fight against the wildfires currently ravaging the country.
On Thursday, Shane Fitzsimmons, commissioner of New South Wales Rural Fire Service, shared a video of the emotional moment on Twitter:
This is the first time since 2010 that the U.S. has sent firefighters to help Australia battle wildfires. The National Interagency Fire Center, the government agency coordinating the U.S. firefighters going to Australia, told the Los Angeles Times that “roughly 100 firefighters” had been sent in December and early January, with “50 to 60 more planned to be dispatched” this week.
Canada has also sent firefighters to Australia for the first time. Those firefighters were also received with cheers at the airport, according to a New York Times Australia correspondent on the scene.
Estimates say the wildfires will leave more than 1 billion animals dead, and will cause the loss of 30% of koalas’ key habitat in New South Wales and potentially a third of the animal’s population in that region.
The fires have also left 25 people dead, caused the damage and destruction of more than 2,000 homes, and covered an area of 31,000 square miles.