Australia announces new medal to honor bushfire service

Overseas responders, including firefighters from the United States, will be eligible to receive the honor


dpa, Hamburg, Germany

AUSTRALIA — The Australian government has announced a new medal will be awarded to emergency workers and others to recognize their service and sacrifice during the country's catastrophic bush fires.

The National Emergency Medal will be awarded to eligible emergency responders who gave "sustained or significant" service during the 2019-2020 bush fires, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday, using the occasion of Australia Day to announce the new medal.

A firefighter coats a bridge with foam as a bushfire burns near Moruya, New South Wales, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. Wildfires destroyed more than 3,000 homes and razed more than 26 million acres since September. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
A firefighter coats a bridge with foam as a bushfire burns near Moruya, New South Wales, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020. Wildfires destroyed more than 3,000 homes and razed more than 26 million acres since September. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

The people who will be eligible for the medal include firefighters, police, ambulance and emergency services volunteers and workers, along with Defence Force personnel, reservists and overseas personnel, according to a statement from Morrison's office.

"The response to the bush fire situation has been unprecedented with thousands of volunteer and paid responders working around the clock, day and night, week after week to protect property and save lives," Morrison said.

"Their courage has been extraordinary, and it's a spirit which we must honor and celebrate this Australia Day."

More than 12 million hectares of land has already burned and at least 33 people have died across Australia since September when the bush fires started earlier this season than previous years.

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©2020 Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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