They already give so much to the community and this weekend Illawarra State Emergency Service and Rural Fire Service volunteers used their skills to help the environment by participating in Clean Up Australia Day.
On Sunday, volunteers from the Wollongong and Dapto SES units, with the assistance of the Mount Kembla RFS brigade, focused their clean-up efforts along a stretch of road on Mount Kembla.
Wollongong SES deputy unit commander Edward Forbes said the volunteers were able to engage the specialised skills they usually put to use in emergency situations to clean up rubbish.
The Wollongong unit does vertical rescues and these particular skills were especially helpful on Sunday, with volunteers able to reach rubbish in steep, difficult terrain.
Mr Forbes said they used hauling techniques - and a stretcher - to carry the rubbish back up the slope.
For SES volunteers, carrying out such a clean-up also gives them the opportunity to hone these life-saving skills in a much less pressured environment than if they were trying to rescue a person.
Mr Forbes said the amount of rubbish the SES and RFS members cleaned up on Sunday resulted in a pile of waste taller than a person.
It included general rubbish like beer and water bottles, as well as electronics, a washing machine, and even a car, which is believed to have been there for decades.
Participating in Clean Up Australia Day, which is held on the first Sunday in March, has become a tradition for local SES members.
In recent years, they have provided water support to clean up Belmore Basin, focused their attention on Lake Illawarra and its foreshore, and used specialist techniques and equipment to tidy up other hard-to-access parts of the escarpment.
Dozens of other clean-ups have also taken place across the Illawarra this year, organised by schools, community groups and individuals.
Clean Up Australia Day began 33 years ago, the year after Ian Kiernan had the idea of organising a community clean-up of Sydney Harbour.
Last year more than 934,000 people registered at clean-up sites.
Plastics accounted for 63 per cent of waste collected, a 17 per cent increase on 2021.
We've made it a whole lot easier for you to have your say. Our new comment platform requires only one log-in to access articles and to join the discussion on the Illawarra Mercury website. Find out how to register so you can enjoy civil, friendly and engaging discussions. Sign up for a subscription here.