The screams seemed to get louder as the rain poured down and the torrent of water got stronger.
Minutes earlier Craig Robertson had been about to sit down and enjoy his Thai takeaway food at home when, he got the call at 7.05pm to "assist the public".
For emergency services this kind of call can be minor or, in this case, it can be the difference between life and death.
On July 2, 2022, NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) Group Captain Robertson was called to Hacking River, near Otford train station, where a man was clinging to a tree in the river amid raging floodwaters.
"The rain that was coming down, it was like sheets of glass. It was coming down off the mountains and heading down into Otford," he said.
Mr Robertson might have fought fires for 40 years in the RFS, but this dangerous river rescue was something he'd never done before, nor had the training to do.
"Jumping into rivers is not bloody being part of the RFS, I can tell you that," he said.
The adrenaline kicked in. He attached a rope to himself and the other end was tied to another RFS firefighter who stood on the riverbank.
"I had to go down a 25 metre bank to the riverbank, where then I was able to see and hear a gentleman screaming for help and hanging onto a tree," he said.
Then he waded out amid the raging river.
"I had to convince him to let go of the tree so I could put the rope around him so we could be pulled back into the shore."
The rescue was a success and it earned the 56-year-old a Commissioner's Commendation for Bravery, but the dangerous incident gives him flashbacks to this day.
"It was probably because of what really could have happened to me," he said.
"If you ask my family, I did the stupidest thing that anyone could have ever done. But, at the end of the day there was someone yelling for their life, I made that decision to go and rescue that person."
Friends, especially those in the RFS, are a vital support through the flashbacks and ups and downs of life as a RFS volunteer.
He first joined the Engadine Brigade in 1983 as a 16-year-old for a bit of fun and to give back to his community.
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These days he's a life member of Otford Brigade and serves as group captain to assist four Illawarra brigades - Otford, Helensburgh, Stanwell Park and Darkes Forest.
His wife Megan is a RFS support member, they have two children Karla and youngest daughter Brianna who is also in the RFS.
As a volunteer firefighter his pager goes off at all hours of the day and night. He's walked away from Christmas meals and birthday parties to fight fires.
"I can even tell you I've left my wife in a restaurant to go to call outs," he said.
As he celebrates 40 years in the service this year he said it's a time of reflection.
"I do it for the community and I do it for the friendship that you get out of being a member of the Rural Fire Service, and it's like a second family," he said.
"I have to pull them out when I go to official functions, but at the end of the day they're in a cupboard in a safe at home," he said.
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