During the Lake-Innes Crestwood fire Chris Brown says he was the most scared he has ever been in 17 years as a firefighter.
As captain of the Lake Cathie Rural Fire Brigade, Mr Brown said he was with a crew returning south from helping fight the fire near Crestwood Estate. It was in the early hours of the morning on Tuesday, October 29.
"We saw a glow that looked like it was coming from our town (Lake Cathie), it was frighting," he said.
"I've never been so scared and (at the time) I thought we would've lost homes by the morning."
As the fire truck was travelling down Ocean Drive, Mr Brown saw big embers which he said were travelling at the same speed as the truck.
Thankfully once the crew got to the head of the fire, they realised the blaze was not travelling as fast as first anticipated.
The full fire effort went ahead in the morning of Tuesday, October 29. After days of battling the blaze, it was declared under control on November 2.
Mr Brown moved to Lake Cathie in 2002 from Terrigal and said the Lake-Innes Crestwood fire is the first one he's fought so close to home.
Firefighters from Lake Cathie had the fire burning at their back fences.
"We all pulled together because we weren't going to let it take over," Mr Brown said.
Over the years Mr Brown has witnessed many communities come together in dire circumstances. However this was the first time a blaze had impacted his neighbours and his family.
Mr Brown's wife Kylie was part of the support crew. She helped ensure firefighters on the ground received sufficient sustenance to keep their energy levels up.
The fear of the fire took its toll on Mr Brown's children. They were worried for their dad's welfare as he battled to keep the fire away.
Mr Brown's son has recently joined the Lake Cathie Rural Fire Brigade and is focused on becoming a captain, just like his dad.
The juggle of being a firefighter, family life and work is something Mr Brown knows all too well.
He owns a local business and credited the support of his staff, many of who are also firefighters, with keeping it rolling over the past week.
Mr Brown thanked the wider community for its ongoing support during the Crestwood-Lake Innes fire. He said the brigade has received food, water, messages of gratitude and donations.
Meanwhile the Lake Cathie-Bonny Hills Lions Club, the Lake Cathie Progress Association and Revive Lake Cathie will stage a Community Thank You event for firefighters on Sunday, November 17.
It starts at 3pm at the Lake Cathie Foreshore Reserve.
Dealing with the emotional toll
Outside of work and firefighting, Mr Brown is an avid runner who participates in marathons and trail running events.
He is part of the Port Macquarie Pacers running group and is a familiar face at Port Macquarie parkrun every Saturday morning.
Mr Brown is currently training for the Ultra Trail Australia 50km event in May.
Mr Brown said running helps him deal with stress. Other members of the brigade enjoy activities such as fishing and four wheel driving.
Mr Brown said there is always professional support available to members.
"Not out of the woods yet"
Mr Brown said unfortunately and contrary to belief, there is always danger ahead.
He said it's important people remain vigilant, follow direction from the NSW Rural Fire Service and maintain their bush fire plans.
Mr Brown said fires do have the ability to reignite on recently burnt fire ground.
This has been evident with the recent Lindfield Park fire.
"People need to know fire can keep coming back, by catching pockets of unburnt ground and even on substantial areas which have just been burnt," Mr Brown said.
If you are interested in joining the service please call the Port Macquarie-Hastings Fire Control Centre on 02 6588 9000 or visit www.rfs.nsw.gov.au