Australia's volunteer firefighters to receive compensation

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Sydney, Dec. 29 (BNA): Australia's unpaid volunteer firefighters who have left their jobs to fight bushfires will be able to apply for compensation, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Sunday.

Rural Fire Service (RFS) volunteers in the state of New South Wales, who make up 90 percent of the firefighters battling blazes around Sydney, will be able to claim $209 a day, up to a maximum of $4,189, Deutsche press agency (dpa) reported.

Morrison had come under increasing pressure, including from within his own government, to financially assist the volunteers who had left work to battle the massive bushfires.

"This is not about paying volunteers. It is about sustaining our volunteer efforts by protecting them from financial loss."

The compensation applies only to unpaid volunteers who are self-employed or work for small and medium businesses. They also must have been called out for more than 10 days this fire season.

The payments will be tax-free as they are aimed at compensating expenses such as fuel and equipment.

The fires began three months ago with no end in sight. More than 3.4 million hectares of bushland has burned, nine people have been killed, including two volunteer firefighters, and some 1,000 homes lost.

Meanwhile, evacuation orders were issued for those near the rural town of Goongerah, 440 kilometers west of Melbourne in the state of Victoria, in Australia's south-east.

In Sydney, which is further north on the east coast, 85 fires were still burning, 40 of which were out of control, according to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service.

Temperatures of up to 43 degrees Celsius are forecast over the next few days, with the worst conditions expected on New Year's Eve, according to fire commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.

The hot weather brings dry lightning storms with it, which increases the risk of new fires starting.