ONE year ago the Port Macquarie-Hastings community had to work together as one.
A ring of fire had enveloped the Mid North Coast making it one of the most horrific, dangerous and challenging bushfire seasons in decades.
But in adversity, humanity rises to the top and there are those enduring moments when an act of kindness, an extended helping hand, a fight for justice and most tragically, the loss of a life, brought our community together.
Here are some of those stories that defined the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires on the Mid North Coast.
When the Crestwood fire began threatening houses in Lake Cathie on Tuesday, October 29, HSC student Liam Birrer knew he had to help out.
The student of Hastings Secondary College Westport Campus even missed his Metal and Engineering HSC exam in the process.
"I don't really like sitting back and making everyone else do the work," he said.
"It is a bit unfair if they are out for 12-14 hour days and I could be out there helping them."
Mr Birrer is a member of the Sancrox-Thrumster RFS brigade.
Full story here: Books to bushfires, HSC student misses exam to help the frontline
THE Sancrox-Thrumster Rural Fire brigade captain watched the smoke billowing over Crestwood and Innes Lake on the afternoon of October 28.
He knew right then they were in the hands of the Gods. It all depended on the wind.
"If the wind changes and it heads towards Lake Cathie, we're in trouble," he said.
Within hours, that nightmare became a reality.
"It feels good when you get out there and play your little part in the big picture," he said on returning to his 'day job' at Baker's Delight.
"The reward is the sense of helping people."
She has affectionately been dubbed the 'sign lady'.
Pappinbarra dairy farmer Mary Reynolds' penchant for making homemade signs, which she places by the side of the road, literally saved homes and potentially lives during the terrifying bushfire which gripped her village on Friday, November 8.
As the Stockyard East fire threatened homes in Pappinbarra, west of Wauchope, she became aware her neighbour was in trouble.
Determined to help but with no power or phones to call for assistance she turned to what she knew - a cardboard sign.
"It was a pure act of desperation," she said.
"It is what neighbours do, you can't stand there and not try."
Again, it worked.
"Within five minutes a neighbour had noticed and 20 minutes later a fire truck had pulled up after seeing the sign," she said.
Her beloved neighbour's property was saved.
Then, her attention turned to saving the community's milk supply.
Climate change champion and long-time environmentalist Harry Creamer says he has no regrets about interrupting Prime Minister Scott Morrison's visit to the RFS headquarters in Wauchope on November 10.
Mr Creamer gate-crashed a briefing between Mr Morrison, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and local MPs.
He was quickly removed from the area before urging Mr Morrison to take action on climate change.
"Yes, it was worth it," Mr Creamer said.
"We simply have to go on raising awareness of the links between climate change and global warming and increased droughts, bushfires and other extreme weather events.
"These fires are the worst on record. This is the new normal."
When fire threatened their home at Lorne, Carol Booth and Gail Sheehan gathered their four horses and took shelter at Wauchope Showground.
But one horse, Oscar, is blind, and was spooked by the new surroundings, especially as there were hundreds of other animals there with their owners, fleeing the terrifying bushfires.
Carol is a retired doctor, who happens to play the harp, so she took out her instrument and the music immediately calmed Oscar down.
"He's not used to being in a stable like this, with big things happening, and he can't see very well, and starts pawing the ground, but when Carol plays to him, he just calms right down," friend Gail Sheehan said.
NSW Rural Fire Service volunteer Brittany Daly says she didn't expect a video of her dancing with children to have the overwhelming response it did.
Video of the dancing queen from the Sancrox/Thrumster Rural Fire Brigade went viral, notching up over thousands of views on social media.
Brittany said she loves to put a smile on people's faces.
"If that means being a little bit silly and doing some dance moves in my uniform, I'll do it," she said.
THE anguished cries of a koala frantically trying to escape a blazing bushfire made your heart hurt.
What was more amazing was the act of human kindness shown by Toni Doherty who took her own shirt off and risked injuring herself to save the animal from a certain death as fires raged west of Port Macquarie.
The grandmother was described by the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital staff as an "absolute legend" for taking charge and rescuing the male koala which was named Ellenborough Lewis, after her grandchild.
Ellenborough Lewis tragically died as a result of his fire-related injuries.
Full story, video: The koala rescue that captured the world's heart
A woman who fled the Crestwood-Lake Cathie bushfire with her two horses is very grateful to Wauchope Showground for opening its gates and giving her shelter.
Rebecca Keogh usually keeps her two horses, Beau and Indi, in stables run by Ngaire Reynolds in the Lake Innes area. However, as the Crestwood Drive bushfire spread, Ngaire asked owners of 35 horses to move them away to safety.
"At 6am on Tuesday, we came out to move our horses, and the wind picked up and got out of control, and started moving in our direction. It was terrifying," said Rebecca.
Mid North Coast communities were challenged by the most terrifying bushfires we've seen in 20 years. Lives were lost, homes destroyed and hectares of flora and fauna decimated.
In the aftermath of our own horrific experience - shared by individuals, communities and those amazing volunteers and emergency services personnel who bravely manned the frontline - we can reflect on the challenges we faced.
Some of those challenges at Johns River were isolation, communication and awareness about just what to do. They were met with dangerously erratic conditions and fire with a ferocity no-one could have predicted.
The fire would claim the life of resident, 63-year-old Julie Fletcher. The pain of losing one of their own still hurts this small community 12 months on.