All the drama is on the fireground and in the air above as brave people try to tame a ferocious, unpredictable beast. It is a life and death drama that plays out in full view of a nation and beyond.
But there's a quieter, crucial side. Defeating a fire is a clever operation that demands skill and planning.
The Canberra Times was given an exclusive insight into the huge effort behind Friday's operation.
From Canberra Airport and the Emergency Services Agency alongside, small and large water tankers have been taking off and heading to the Orroral Valley Fire to try to stop its further expansion into the Australian Capital Territory.
The operation involves a variety of aircraft from helicopters, to small-engined water tankers to very large water tankers (VLATS in the jargon of the operation).
Canberra airport has just been upgraded, partly because of the fear that more fire-fighting capacity would be needed.
The airport and the Emergency Services Agency learnt from the bushfires last year and put in more water tanks and made those tanks more easily movable so they could fill many fire-fighting aircraft at once, so minimising delays to getting them back in the air.
At the airport, there are stacks of bags of a red solid chemical that is mixed with water to form a retardant that is sprayed on or ahead of fires.
Above the fire, an "air-attack supervisor" surveys the situation, assessing the best form of attack. He or she then calls in other aircraft to attack the fire.
In difficult uneven terrains this might be the small tankers sometimes used for crop spraying. In the fire-fighting business, they are called "bumble bees" because they are black and yellow and buzz around. They can carry 2500 litres of fluid and are small and agile.
"Collectively they work very well together," ESA manager Jason Jones said.
"They are very agile out there in the fire environment. Because of their size and capacity they can actually get low to the fire. Generally, these are used in areas where they have to get close to the ground. It might be due to the topography so the larger aircraft can't get in there."
At the big end are the huge tankers like the DC-10 based at Canberra airport which can carry 35,000 litres of liquid.
The DC-10s can lay a line of retardant 100 metres wide and 1.6 kilometres long. They are sometimes used to lay three of these lines to cut a fire off in every direction it might go - the fourth side is less of a worry because the bush is probably burnt and so has no fuel.
The pilot of the large tankers needs to know where to drop the retardant so it's guided in.
"The big plane, because of its size, needs something to guide it in to the area that needs the retardant laid, so what the guide plane does is a few laps first and establishes where the best place for the retardant is, based on the fire behaviour and the topography."
The guide plane then does the run for real, followed by the big tanker.
It either radios at the moment for the drop or puts out a smoke signal.
It has to be exact and highly skilled. It is dangerous as we know from the crash of the C-130 northeast of Cooma, with the loss of the three crew members.
Planes need spare parts, and the hanger at the enlarged fire-fighting hub at Canberra Airport is now packed with spare wheels for the DC-10 plus even a spare engine.
The aircraft is owned by an American company that specialises in aerial fire-fighting. Its 50-day lease costs about a million dollars out of federal taxes but the day-to-day running is paid for by the ACT or one of the states if it's used over New South Wales or Victoria.
It is a majestic aircraft, according to the ESA's Jason Jones: "To see a DC-10 - such a large plane - come down to approximately 100 metres from the ground in smoke and hot windy conditions, led by another plane, to drop 35,000 litres of water is astonishing."