ACT and NSW rural fire services are seeing "overwhelming" numbers of people applying to become volunteer firefighters amidst a horror bushfire season.
Since October 2019, more than 25,000 people have requested to become volunteers with the NSW Rural Fire Service and more than 400 people have requested to join the ACT Rural Fire Service.
In addition to that, in the past three months 260 Canberrans have joined or are in the process of joining a Community Fire Unit in their suburb. Prior to this bushfire season, there were about 750 people in the Community Fire Units which started in late-2003.
An ACT Emergency Services Agency spokesman said the territory's volunteer firefighting service had received 415 enquiries about how to become a member, but said unfortunately they wouldn't be operational for the current fire season.
"Our next [training] program is scheduled to commence in March 2020 and will be completed over a six-week period," he said.
NSW Rural Fire Service spokesman Anthony Bradstreet said the service is seeing "a significant increase" in interest due to the current fire situation, and they were working to conduct recruitment sessions on a larger scale to deal with the influx.
"Becoming a member of the Rural Fire Service is making a commitment to become a professional firefighter, so we do require an amount of training and support before we get firefighters out on to firegrounds," Mr Bradstreet said.
"We know that where brigades have the capacity to welcome new members and begin the training process, that is occurring, but for many brigades they are committed and focused on the ongoing fire emergency."
Mr Bradstreet said many people had applied to volunteer in support roles rather than as front-line firefighters.
"We want to make the most of the community support and if people want to do that in non-traditional firefighting ways, we're looking to accommodate that. If people want to wash trucks for example, we're looking at ways for them to be able to do that," he said.
But firefighting is the blood for 20-year-old German au pair Jule Hansen who came to Australia to look after one family but has ended up looking after whole communities. She followed in her father's footsteps, training to become a volunteer firefighter in Germany. Then in August when she moved to Australia for a gap year she joined her local brigade.
Over three months she was trained in new vocabulary and skills that come with fighting bushfires in Australian conditions.
Unbeknownst to all, she was entering the service in the season that would soon become one of Australia's most dangerous, and one that would be described many times as "unprecedented".
Her first day on the fire ground was December 21, a day of catastrophic fire danger in NSW.
"Welcome to Australia, that's what everybody said," Miss Hansen said.
On that day, she defended the Nerriga fire shed while other crews defended the Nerriga pub where residents were taking shelter.
In Germany, her firefighting role involved mostly car fires, some house fires and technical work, but definitely not bushfires.
"I couldn't believe it when I was on the fireground, but I was ok the whole time. The crew was really nice and they were really worried about me too, but they took very good care of me," Miss Hansen said.
"When the fire came and the whole sky it just turned black and it was four o'clock in the afternoon, that I think was the worst thing."
Miss Hansen's parents in Germany were seeing images of the bushfire emergency on the news and were hearing first-hand accounts from their daughter about the situation.
She said they were very worried, but her father was very proud.
"When I came to the brigade they said if they have a good year, they have nothing to do. But it turned out this year is bad. I didn't expect it when I entered the brigade but I'm glad that I can help."
Her host father, Mark Carroll, is a member of the Carwoola rural fire brigade and helped her join, albeit temporarily, for her time in Australia. Brigade captain David Hanzl was more than willing to have her on board.
"Even if it's only for a few months, we get something out of it, she gets something out of it and she goes home with some great experiences, something she can take back to her home brigade," Mr Hanzl said.
"We get an extra body to come and drag hoses around, and some great company as well."
Mr Hanzl said when Miss Hansen first asked to join the brigade in August, they were sending one crew a week up to the fires burning in Queensland and northern NSW, so they still had capacity to do training.
He said at this point, there is no capacity and those looking to join would need to wait until the current season was over.