Woonona firefighter Michael Gray has spent the past week sifting through the rubble of more than 100 properties destroyed in Tasmania's bushfires.
As part of a bushfire impact assessment team, Inspector Gray was initially searching the scorched properties for bodies, with reports that more than 100 people were unaccounted for.
The specialist team of six NSW firefighters also helped Tasmanian police to identify whether burnt-out buildings still posed a danger, or whether owners were able to come on site to hunt for any belongings they could salvage.
The team travelled to the fire-ravaged island state last Saturday and was deployed to one of the worst-affected areas - the fishing village of Dunalley, where 126 properties were destroyed or damaged.
They returned home on Thursday. Yesterday, Inspector Gray, a firefighter with the Rural Fire Service Illawarra Zone, rested up after working 12-hour days in treacherous - and sometimes heart-wrenching - situations.
"The conditions were hot and dusty and there were strong winds, so there was the danger of falling trees and debris, and fires were still burning in areas we were working," Inspector Gray said.
"In the four days, our team inspected well over 100 properties, primarily looking for deceased persons through the rubble.
"Fortunately, no bodies were discovered, although we located some deceased wildlife as well as injured wildlife that we were able to get some help for through WIRES [Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service]."
Inspector Gray said while no lives were lost, many residents had lost their homes, their belongings and treasured memories.
"Many of them had lost everything," he said.
He said the experience of the coastal village was a timely reminder for the Illawarra of how quickly fire could take hold.
"A lot of the areas affected by fire in Tasmania were very similar to the Illawarra in that they had hills at the rear and a lot of cottages and dwellings down on the beachfront areas," he said.
"A lot of the buildings were destroyed by what appeared to be ember attack.
"Illawarra residents and visitors need to be aware of ember attack, as embers can travel for many kilometres, so it's not just those who reside next to bush areas who need to be prepared."
Another bushfire impact assessment team relieved Inspector Gray's team, and is turning its focus to why certain buildings were destroyed while others remained intact.
"They will gather information for the CSIRO which will assist in the development of Australian standards and documentation to assist with planning legislation and the ways structures are built and the materials used," he said.