In Spring 2019, the South Coast was readying for its peak holiday period but a decade of dry conditions and two years of drought had set the stage for a dangerous fire season.
On November 26, a lightning strike started a fire in a remote, hard to reach gully of the Currowan State Forest, northwest of the popular holiday town Batemans Bay. Fanned by strong winds, within a couple of days it was more than 2500 hectares. That's larger than 3500 soccer fields.
The fact that it was so early in the life of the Currowan Fire helped Bawley Point. It meant that more firefighting resources were available for the town's defence. Their story might be very different if the fire struck even a few weeks later.
I still get goosebumps actually, when I think about the sound of choppers. Because that's like being in a war zone, just hearing that the whole time. That's one thing I thought I'd never ever forget.Sue Brodie, recent Bawley Point Rural Fire Service Brigade recruit
By the end of the day, Bawley Point had been saved. Not a single life, home, or business was lost on December 5, 2019. Firefighter crews, aerial waterbombing and a late afternoon wind change saved Bawley Point from destruction.
For the men and women of the local fire brigade, and brigades up and down the coast, summer had just arrived. And the Currowan Fire was still raging.
I remember being weeks and weeks in smoke, and you see fire everywhere, literally everywhere you see a house burning or a car burning or people standing in tears somewhere else. I've never been to war but I can presume it looks a bit like that.Hendrik Boone, Bawley Point Rural Fire Brigade volunteer.
A year on, we revisit Bawley Point, and talk to some of the new recruits the local RFS hopes will help protect the town into the future.
They're part of a wave of volunteers up and down Australia's east coast signing up in the wake of the fires, at least 8000 of them. We find out why they felt compelled to join the brigade.
New to podcasts? See our article on how to listen to podcasts.
Get the transcript for this episode.
Do you have a story to share? Get in touch: email@example.com.