PERTH, Australia—Sydney’s iconic New Year’s Eve fireworks will go ahead amid a wildfire crisis to show Australia’s resiliency to the world, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, while authorities on Dec. 29 braced for conditions to deteriorate because of high temperatures.
Morrison also announced financial support for some volunteer firefighters in New South Wales, the state worst hit by wildfires ravaging the nation.
“The world looks at Sydney every single year and they look at our vibrancy, they look at our passion, they look at our success,” he said. “In the midst of the challenges that we face, subject to the safety considerations, I can think of no better time to express to the world just how optimistic and positive we are as a country.”
While the City of Sydney Council gave the green light, fire authorities warned that the fireworks could be canceled if catastrophic conditions are declared.
Morrison said that eligible volunteer firefighters will receive 300 Australian dollars ($209) a day, and up to AU$6,000 ($4,190) in total, if called out to battle blazes for more than 10 days. The compensation focused on people who are self-employed or work for small and medium-sized businesses.
“The early and prolonged nature of this fire season has made a call beyond what is typically made on our volunteer firefighters,” he said.
“A lot of everyone’s stunned, a lot of time away from work,” said Sean Warren, a volunteer firefighter for about seven years. “A lot of people are using up their annual leave as well. A lot of people are just missing their families. … They’ve skipped Christmas with their families and their grandchildren.”
Morrison said the compensation is necessary so that the New South Wales fires commissioner is in a position to continue to call out the volunteer force.
Wildfires have also flared in Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia, and South Australia.
New South Wales, the country’s most populous state, has received the brunt of the wildfire catastrophe, which has killed nine people nationwide and razed more than 1,000 homes in the past few months.
High temperatures in the country’s east are expected until the new year. Sydney’s western suburbs are expected to peak at 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit) on Dec. 31. Fire danger in Sydney and northern New South Wales is currently very high.
New South Wales Rural Fire Services Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said 85 fires are still burning across the state, with almost half of them not contained.
“We’ve got some deteriorating weather conditions over the coming days, particularly [Dec. 30] and worsening through to [Dec. 31],” he said.
An emergency warning was issued Dec. 29 for Victoria’s east as conditions worsen. Melbourne, the state’s capital, was set to reach 43 C (109 F) on Dec. 30.