Bilpin Rural Fire Brigade has proven protecting the community is not just a job for the blokes, with the brigade's first all-female crew in living memory patrolling the area last week.
The crew comprising Sharon Newton, Kelly Haines, Kylie Thompson and Sam Moseley patrolled from Berambing to Pup Road in Bilpin in the brigade's Cat 1 truck on Friday, January 3, keeping an eye out for anything still smouldering and dangerous trees that could pose a risk to the community in the wake of the recent devastating fires.
Driver Ms Newton had only been active within the brigade for five weeks, obtaining emergency service leave from her day job with NSW Police to help defend her community.
Husband Jimmy has been with the RFS "since he was a kid" and Ms Newton completed her training several years ago so she could lend a hand with the annual Bilpin Bush Run.
But she had never been out on the fire ground.
"I'd never been out before, my husband was the one that would always go out," she explained.
"But because the fires were going on for so long, I felt I needed to help out."
Seeing the members of the local brigade getting tired even before the fire had made it to Bilpin spurred Ms Newtown on to get out on the truck.
"Everyone had been fighting the fires on Putty Road and St Albans and we were just waiting for it to come to Bilpin, we knew it would happen," she said.
"Everyone was buggered and it hadn't even come to our town yet."
Everyone had been fighting the fires on Putty Road and St Albans and we were just waiting for it to come to Bilpin ... Everyone was buggered and it hadn't even come to our town yet.Sharon Newton, Bilpin Rural Fire Brigade
Sending her nine-year-old daughter "to Nan's" for two weeks so she could fight the fires, Ms Newton's first outings with the brigade were to St Albans and Higher Macdonald, meeting at the shed at 6am and not returning until 8.30pm.
She has subsequently been out about 15 times, including - for the first time anyone can remember - as the driver for the all-female crew.
Ms Newton got her truck driver's licence 25 years ago when she wanted to join the fire brigade, but had applied for the police at the same time and eventually took that position because it came through first.
"I'd only driven a truck about five times in the past 25 years," she said.
Fellow firefighter Ms Haines works with the Women's Cottage in Richmond, Ms Thompson is Deputy Principal of Windsor High School, and Ms Moseley owns her own business.
"We were all quite excited, it was the first time all the girls had been out," Ms Newton explained.
"Everyone was really happy for us, they were really supportive. We are a pretty tight crew up there.
"You get out of the truck with all your crew and with all the banter that goes on, you do feel really good doing it."
The day went smoothly despite a few nerves driving the truck - "it's like four-wheel-driving on a goat track in a Cat 1 truck, you've got to get through some tight spots," Ms Newton said - and feedback from the crew was 100 per cent positive.
"We bolster each other," Ms Moseley told the Gazette.
"Females tend to talk more about strategy and things like that.
"As an example for our kids and our daughters, I think it's invaluable.
As an example for our kids and our daughters, I think it's invaluable.Sam Moseley
"But that doesn't take anything away from the men because they do an amazing job, too."
Ms Haines, who has been in the brigade for the last six years or so with her husband Jim, agreed.
"It was pretty cool," she said.
"For me as a woman to go through the majority of that and then debrief in a truck full of women was really lovely."
Ms Thompson, who has her chainsaw ticket and was on hand to deal with damaged branches and trees, said it was exciting to be in the first all-female patrol.
"It's really good that we can get more women involved," she said.
However, none of the women were pretending the job of protecting the community during a fire emergency was easy.
"It's quite scary," Ms Newton said.
"We had a few days where [the fire] was unpredictable and it jumped the road.
"It does feel like you are in a war situation.
"There's smoke, there's helicopters and planes flying over.
"One day I was up there out on a crew when we were fighting the fire and ... there was fire in the middle of the road.
"Everything was on fire."
Ms Newton believes the role of RFS volunteers like Bilpin's female crew extends far beyond firefighting and property protection, as members are all locals and go through everything the local community goes through.
"We're all volunteers, and we are a small community," she said.
"Most of the Rural Fire Service volunteers are doing it for their community members and friends.
"When you run into locals they need to tell you their story, and you give out a lot of hugs.
"You have got to let them get it off their chest.
"It's a frightening experience and it does take a bit to come down from it because you're running on adrenaline."
Ms Newton said herself and the crew were a small part of a large number of hard-working women that volunteer for the RFS in many different roles.
"They are all doing a fabulous job and we are no different," she said.