Firefighters in Australia thanked with giant Times Square billboard

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service billboard in Times Square.
The New South Wales Rural Fire Service billboard in Times Square.(NSWRFS)
Updated: Feb. 20, 2020 at 1:02 PM EST
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(CBS News) - An Australian firefighting service wanted a unique way to show their gratitude to firefighters who battled the country's devastating bushfires. So, the volunteer service picked one of the most famous locations in the world to do so: Manhattan's Times Square.

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service used a giant billboard in the heart of New York City to share their message of thanks. “We wanted to say a big ‘thank you’ to all the firefighters who have worked so hard over the last few months, and to the community for its support,” the fire service wrote on Twitter.

“Imagine fighting a bushfire higher than this billboard,” the video message reads. “Thank you to the brave Australian and US firefighters defending Australia. And for the world for all your support.”

The 70-foot display towers over commuters and tourists in Times Square and was donated by advertising agency Silvercast.

The unprecedented fires in Australia claimed at least 33 lives, including three American firefighters, since September. More than 100 American firefighters were deployed to assist and Australia's firefighters are nearly all volunteers.

New South Wales was the hardest-hit part of the country, with thousands of people forced to flee their homes as the fire burned through millions of acres of land.

However, last week, the fires that have been raging there were officially declared contained. Substantial rain in the region greatly helped the firefighters extinguish the wildfires.

Scientists say climate change is the root of the problem as it is causing Australia's environment to transform, making it hotter and drier, and exposing it to longer, more intense fire seasons.

"2019 was the hottest and the driest year in Australia's history. So we actually saw temperature records be broken all over the country," Joelle Gergis, a climate scientist at the Australian National University, told "60 Minutes."

“I think this summer has been a real wakeup call for most Australians,” Gergis said. “And myself as a climate scientist, seeing the extreme level of heat and the bushfires and the drought conditions playing out so catastrophically has been I think a wakeup call to the world.”

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