Defence will formally cease Operation Bushfire Assist 2019-2020 on 26 March 2020, having completed the emergency and recovery tasks requested by state and local authorities. Defence has been assisting with the bushfire efforts since early September 2019 by providing wide-ranging support as part of the national response. Prime Minister Scott Morrison thanked all personnel who provided direct support in the field, at sea, in the air, and from Defence bases as part of Operation Bushfire Assist. “I couldn’t be prouder of the way Defence has been assisting emergency services across the country in these challenging circumstances,” the Prime Minister said. “The permanent and part-time Australian Defence Force members provided essential support to our emergency services across Australia. This remarkable hard work has made a significant difference to the immediate emergency response and the longer-term recovery which Defence will continue to support.” Operation Bushfire Assist commenced on 31 December 2019 to support state fire and emergency services across NSW, Victoria and Queensland and later provided support to the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and Tasmania. At its peak, more than 6,500 ADF members provided support as part of emergency relief, response and recovery operations. This included around 3,000 Reserve forces. Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds CSC said it marked the largest mobilisation of the ADF for domestic disaster relief in Australia’s history. “I am so proud of the service our permanent and part-time ADF members provided as part of this response,” Minister Reynolds said. “I am also very grateful for the support provided by the many additional international defence force partners from Canada, Fiji, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, and the United States. Their support demonstrates the strength of our relationships. “Finally, I acknowledge and thank the families and employers of our Reservists for their understanding and support that has made this response possible.” During Operation Bushfire Assist, Defence contributed to the response and recovery efforts through the delivery of the following support: Clearance of over 4,850 kilometres of roads;Clearance and repair of over 1285 kilometres of fences;Clearance of over 240 kilometres of fire breaks;Production of nearly 10 million litres of drinking water for Kangaroo Island and Bega; andProvision of over 77,000 meals on Defence bases to emergency services personnel and evacuees. Defence will continue to provide support to non-emergency recovery operations. The Government has committed $2 billion that the National Bushfire Recovery Agency is helping to deliver to ensure Australian families, businesses and communities can build back better.