A volunteer marine rescue crew fought through choking smoke and poor visibility to save five children who were trapped on the beach as they fled a raging bushfire.
The young children, aged between six and 14, had evacuated their home in Shoalhaven, on the New South Wales coast, and retreated to the beach at Bawley Point.
Nearby, the dangerous South Coast bushfire has destroyed numerous homes and continues to rage.
Bushfires have now destroyed more than 680 homes in NSW alone, according to the Rural Fire Service.
The two crewmen from Marine Rescue Ulladulla had been transporting water and medical supplies to fire crews near the beach when they spotted the stranded young family.
The unnamed youngsters, aged between six and 14, stand next to their rescue boat in Ulladulla after being saved from the South Coast bushfire in Shoalhaven
Volunteer rescuers helped the children battle choppy waters (pictured) at Bawley Point to get to the boat
The family, who lived around Bawley Point on the NSW south coast, fled with just the clothes on their backs and two small bags of belongings.
Heading straight into a blanket of smoke, they battled treacherous conditions to save the children, who had self-evacuated their home with only the clothes on their backs.
Unit Commander David Hall, who made the heroic journey alongside Allan Brook, said: ‘We were half a (nautical) mile off Bawley Point and we couldn’t see land. The conditions were a bit rough, too.
He described how the crew unloaded the supplies destined for the area’s exhausted firefighters, then fitted the children with lifejackets to transport them to safety.
Volunteers from Marine Rescue Ulladulla took pictures of the treacherous conditions as they battled through dangerous smoke to get to the family stranded on the beach (pictured)
Volunteers come to the family’s aid as they make it back to the safety of Ulladulla (pictured), where they were checked by medics and taken to an evacuation centre
Four of the children’s mother, who was the aunt of the fifth, also decided to make the trip, and was eventually taken to an evacuation centre in Ulladulla.
Sandra Zerafa later thanked the crew on social media.
‘They saved my family from the fires. Allan and Dave I commend you. I love you all so much,’ she said.
‘What would I have done without them. I (am) forever in their favour and debt. God please help our emergency personnel to get through this time. You’re all amazing.’
The South Coast bushfire at Currowan is now burning between Batemans Bay and Ulladulla.
Marine Rescue NSW crews have been on high alert this week to support the emergency response as fires continue to devastate the south coast.
Deputy Commissioner Dean Storey applauded the crew’s actions in ensuring the children were removed to safety from the stressful environment at Bawley Point.
Marine rescue volunteers on the south coast (pictured) have also been taking supplies to embattled firefighters taking the fire in Shoalhaven
‘These children were no doubt distressed by the bushfires and I’m sure the sight of our rescue vessel emerging through the smoke was very reassuring,’ he said.
‘Our crew members, along with radio operator Deb Talty maintaining communications in the MR Ulladulla radio base, deserve our thanks for their swift and professional response to assist people who needed help quickly.
‘Navigational skill and situational awareness is needed when the smoke is heavy enough to cut visibility on the open water to this extent.’
It comes as NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says residents from the South Coast up to the Queensland border are ‘living in fear’.
A satellite image shows smoke from the NSW bushfires on Friday, as firefighters braced for a difficult weekend
‘The difference now as we lead into the summer months is previously they (bushfires) were pretty much confined to the northern part of NSW but what we are seeing this week is our resources stretched across the entire coastline,’ she said ahead of the dangerous weekend. ‘
‘Our thoughts are with the people who have been displaced and people who are living in fear.’
As of 5pm Saturday afternoon, there are 17 fires at Watch & Act level across the state.
More than 100 fires are still raging, with 60 not yet contained.