Nelligen has battled bushfires and isolation, but the tight-knit community is bound by a sense of duty to look after one another.
The river-side town, consisting of a cafe, pub, caravan park and homes surrounded by dense bushland, was shut off in all directions when the Currowan fire crossed containment lines in December.
A series of fires on the afternoon of Tuesday, November 26, 2019 kicked off the South Coast emergency.
In the lead-up to and aftermath, some Nelligen residents felt state agencies abandoned them.
Nelligen Rural Fire Service volunteers did what they could with their two tankers, but like for the rest of the coast, the fire was too powerful and took out many Nelligen houses.
Alan and Coral Heaslip lost their home, but they haven't let it stand in the way of firefighting duties.
Six months later, they and other members were building and installing extra storage units for the fire shed.
Then they were on the BBQ, serving a sausage sizzle and chatting with comrades.
The brigade provided a productive means to help out the community, and friendship.
One member has even given them a place to stay as they rebuild.
The fire burnt belongings they had accumulated over 70 years, including two cars.
But the pair don't dwell on it.
Mr and Mrs Heaslip are looking ahead.
"We haven't got any furniture or much clothing," Mr Heaslip said.
"It was a disaster, but there are many people in the same position.
"You've just got to accept it. It's the way it is."
A man on a mission to change the way agencies respond to catastrophes is Patrick McDonnell.
The 20-year old is passionate about firefighting and says he would use last summer's experience to become a better leader.
"This is the first massive fire I've seen in my life, but I'm glad to have been in it," he said.
Mr McDonnell wished there was more warning.
He worried all Nelligen residents were forgotten.
"We heard nothing on the radio about evacuation," he said. "Everyone felt abandoned."
He said some residents thought Nelligen firefighters were the ones who had abandoned them.
"We didn't. We just didn't have enough resources," he said.
"A lot of locals were out here saving houses too, which shouldn't be forgotten.
"It's Nelligen. It's a small town. Everyone's family."
At the peak of the fires, Mr McDonnell watched a 40-foot wall of fire coming to his family's Runnyford Road property.
His aunt and uncle's Nelligen home burnt down.
"It's something you don't want to watch, especially being a firefighter and being family," he said.
Patrick, his father and his uncle then turned their attention to the next family member in the line of fire.
In her 80s, Patrick's grandmother had lived in Nelligen since she was 12 years old.
Thankfully, she took refuge at the boat ramp.
"We're lucky to even be standing at Nelligen at the moment," Patrick said.
Brigade secretary Robynne Murphy said there were never going to be enough trucks to beat the Currowan and Clyde Mountain fires.
"It was so huge," Ms Murphy said.
"About half a dozen RFS trucks from the Northern Beaches of Sydney arrived just in the nick of time to help the one Nelligen RFS truck stop the fire from advancing into the rest of the village.
"There were so many trucks from outside the area; we are all very grateful for their assistance.
"Had they not arrived, who knows what would have happened."
Patrick wants more permanent helicopters, bought by the government, rather than those that were hired.
"With the earth doing what it's doing with fires and storms and floods, fires are going to come anytime," he said.
"We have our own Army, we should have something full-time, ready to go."
Patrick struggled mentally in the days after the main fire front.
The hardest thing was seeing how people had changed.
He said people who had lost their homes shouldn't be left in tents, caravan parks or cheap hotels.
He wants more counsellors on the ground to help residents with mental health.
"A lot of people don't want to talk about it, but they need counselling," he said.
He said Terry Radcliffe, Nelligen River Cafe owner, "looked after everyone".
Many residents gathered at the water's edge near the cafe during the fires.
Mr Radcliffe stayed open and fed volunteers and other residents cooked for the community.
In a region where 30 per cent of people are over 65 years old, young firefighters with time and dedication are hard to come by.
But like Patrick, Beth Christensen chose to make time, so she could care for an aging community, and give back to her hometown.
Ms Christensen works full time and plays a lot of sport, but said she was committed, and wanted others to join the RFS.
The 25-year old will never forget the first summer she qualified as a firefighter.
On what was usually a fun night, she wished herself a "happy New Year's Eve", black with ash.
"I worked seven hours straight, then came home and had my pager next to me," Ms Christensen said.
"I didn't want to go inside, have a shower and be called out again, so I fell asleep on the front lounge.
"I remember waking up and it was 12.15am, and I thought, 'happy New Year's to me'," she laughed.
Ms Christensen described the season as "difficult" and "traumatic".
When fire was threatening the lives of her sister and six-month-old niece, she made the decision to drive them into town, not knowing what she was returning to.
"I didn't know if I was going to come back and my house was going to be gone," she said.
Ms Christensen said it was a tough time for a tight-knit community.
"We're all very close. Our goal is for everyone in the community to be united again," she said.
Trusting the members of her brigade made the job easier.
"I knew they had my back and I had theirs," she said.
Ken Quigg had not yet qualified as an RFS firefighter when summer arrived, but firefighting training on ships in the Northern Territory came in handy.
The ocean lover lived in Darwin before moving to Nelligen three years ago.
Now qualified, Mr Quigg said he loved the training.
"The training was brilliant," he said.
"Everyone looks after each other."
It wasn't hard to volunteer his time on the front line when helping others was at the forefront of his mind.
"You don't think about losing your life going fishing or diving," he said.
"I don't think about a shark eating me, but I love catching lobsters.
"I don't think about putting my life on the line.
"I value my life very dearly. I've got kids. But I love helping people. It makes you part of the community."
Although he wasn't allowed to jump into the brigade truck, Mr Quigg found ways to help.
When they ran out of water to protect a friend's home, he and mates scrounged leftover water dropped from helicopters.
"We fought it for four hours," he said.
"All the water left on the ground we were scooping up; we were splashing that on the house."
He said many firefighters had nightmares, and he would never forget seeing Ms Murphy collapse from exhaustion.
"Every time I shut my eyes, I could see the flames. It does affect you, only for a week or so," he said.
"It's in the back of my mind, but I don't dwell on it."
He was grateful no lives were lost in Nelligen and thanks all firefighters in the area.
He said the region had silently dealt with trauma.
"It's hard to say with COVID, but Batemans Bay changed after the fires a little bit; a little bit somber," he said.
Mr Quigg said the brigade needed a new truck with a spray bar for self-protection.
He wanted younger members to join to give older members a break.
Danny Williams and his partner tried to fight the flames on his rural property from 7am until lunch time on New Year's Eve, but "you just could not be everywhere".
"You put it out, you go to the other side, then you're back there putting it out again," he said.
"I lost lots of fences and tools, form work and building materials."
With the blaze travelling so quickly, he could not leave.
"The pager was going ballistic, but I couldn't leave my place," he said.
"If you had the time, you would. But you just physically did not have the time.
"I think every fire brigade is in the same boat. Where you can help, you will.
"You do the best of your ability.
"Once it had passed, you'd go around helping the neighbours.
"I'm proud of everyone I've got around me. You know who's got your back."
He said a lack of water caught a lot of people out.
"They were prepared. They'd done the best they could," he said.
His neighbours lost their home, and to escape their property, Mr Williams said they walked through flames because their car was on fire.
"They were lucky: the neighbour on the other side was refilling a pod for his place, and he picked them up on the side of the road and took them to another neighbour," Mr Williams said.
After fighting fires in strike teams the nights beforehand, Mr Williams became so exhausted he couldn't move.
"I ended up just passing out on the concrete floor," he said.
A pile of sleepers was on fire; "I said I can't do anything; let it burn. I just had nothing left."
Many people could not use their fire pumps, when the power supply failed. Luckily, Mr Williams had his own power.
"Solar power was perfect with a generator back-up," he said.
"I had a dam which was a third-full of water and I just kept pumping out of that.
"It saved my place."
Mr Williams said the Nelligen brigade was a good bunch.
"We all stick together. You don't find that in a lot of communities," he said.
"It's catastrophic when it came through but a lot of people have come out on the other side a lot stronger.
"It's brought the community a lot closer together."
He said the younger members were "phenomenal" but more were needed.
Both older members and those less experienced had confidence in one another.
"You can only fit five in the truck and there's nine people there; who do you turn away?" he said.
He said the firefighting shifts were long - sometimes 10 hours - and juggling work was difficult, but thanked his bosses who supported him.
Mr Williams said the summer was a "big wake-up call".
"We do have to do more pile burns and more back burns and hazard reduction to slow the spread of fire," he said.
He wants everyone "to clean your gutters out and to have a back-up plan".