Flames tore through bush near Nerriga Road as Brent Hunter and Adam Hingston spotted a potential fire victim struggling in thick smoke.
The two Queanbeyan-based NSW State Emergency Service volunteers were driving back to Nerriga on December 30 while supporting rural firefighters battling the blaze.
They stopped when they saw a koala trying to escape the fire.
With flames approaching and little time to think, Mr Hunter wrapped the koala up in his jacket and carried it into the car.
"He looked a bit worse for wear," Mr Hunter said.
The koala was dehydrated and breathing heavily from the smoke.
Mr Hingston at the wheel, they drove the marsupial a few kilometres further down the road away from the fire.
They wanted to move the koala far enough to get it out of harm's way, Mr Hunter said, but not too far from its usual habitat.
The koala took a sip from a water bottle after Mr Hunter and Mr Hingston got it out of the car and dropped it off.
"We just wanted to take him to a section of bush where he could keep living his life," Mr Hunter said.
The rescue came with a surprise for the SES volunteer. He'd seen the koala's large claws before picking it up and was aware it was distressed by the heavy smoke.
Mr Hunter was careful, holding it by the shoulders to avoid scratches.
Sitting in the car, the koala turned its head around and gave him a painful bite on the finger instead.
The volunteer later received antibiotics and a tetanus injection to treat the bite, and holds no hard feelings.
Millions of animals are dead as a result of bushfires devastating south-east Australia, and the true scale of carnage may never be known.
Mr Hunter had already seen for himself the toll of the bushfires on wildlife while volunteering with the SES, which supports the firefighters responding to fires.
On previous occasions he found himself unable to help as kangaroos and possums tried fleeing.
"There's a lot of destruction that's coming through, that's absolutely ruining where they are living. There's not a lot of places for them to go because the fires just keep moving and moving," Mr Hunter said.
This time, about 7km from Nerriga, it was different.
"The good news is that koala is alive," he said.
"I didn't know how to do it, but we had to do it, and I didn't have a lot of time to think about it."