The station commander of the Fire and Rescue NSW station at Kempsey is hoping recent rain has put an end to the bushfire season after a busy and tough year for firefighters.
Tony Hackenberg has been a firefighter for 35 years and up until recently, members from his era remembered the 1994 fires as being the most intense season they had experienced.
"We went from about 500 calls per year, to 1994 where we received close to 800 calls for the year," he said.
Mr Hackenberg said conditions leading up to the catastrophic bushfire season of 2019/20 were similar to those of 1994.
He said there was a lot of built up fuel, very high temperatures and low humidity.
However, he said back in 1994 there ween't as many people living in the bushland as there are today.
Mr Hackenberg said his members have been busy all year and he hopes they will be able to have some rest due to recent rain.
In August, members started to get sent out to fires in the local area and assist the NSW Rural Fire Service.
On August 9, the Kempsey station were called to 21 incidents over a 24 hour period, the most the station has ever received.
Mr Hackenberg said unfortunately some of those fires were deliberately lit, while others came to fruition from lightning.
The event sparked a joint operation between police and firefighters to implement a program in schools. It was the arson prevention program and Mr Hackenberg said it had proven success, with a decline in fires which were being deliberately lit.
Given the intense fires which were happening locally, Mr Hackenberg said the children could relate to the serious nature of the act.
In October the local Fire and Rescue NSW crew were called to assist the NSW Rural Fire Service with property protection in the Foster/Tuncurry area. Mr Hackenberg said as a result of their actions 190 homes were saved.
Firefighters were also called to the Port Macquarie-Hastings region to assist the RFS, including at the Crestwood blaze, as well as fires near Wauchope.
November 8 is a day which will forever stick in Mr Hackenberg's mind as a time when the Macleay lit up. He said due to the intense nature of the blaze at Willawarrin, firefighters were forced to take cover to protect themselves at some points.
Tragically, Mr Hackenberg said there was one life lost but firefighters feared, given the nature of the fire, there would be a lot more.
"All the ingredients were there for a catastrophic day," he said.
Mr Hackenberg said the latest bushfire season involved the fighting the heaviest impact fires he's witnessed.
He credited the services of Fire and Rescue NSW, the RFS and National Parks and Forestry for coming together and doing a wonderful job.
Since Christmas local firefighters have been called to fight fires near Sydney, western NSW, the ACT and the south coast.
On Monday, February 10 Mr Hackenberg returned from a seven day deployment after working alongside the RFS, as part of a strike team near Cooma.
In 2019 the Fire and Rescue NSW station at Kempsey received 940 calls, which represented an increase of 200 calls from the previous year.
Mr Hackenberg said some firefighters are seeking support through the station's chaplain and they also look out for one another.
For more information about Fire and Rescue NSW, visit fire.nsw.gov.au
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