White powder incidents, radioactive materials, clan labs, explosives and toxic spills - it's all in a day's work for firefighters at Shellharbour.
This is the Illawarra's only specialist HAZMAT station and in the average day, they get called to incidents that have the potential cause serious danger to health, property and the environment.
Three Shellharbour firefighters Vanessa McKellar, Simon Barritt and Trevor Brown recently undertook an intensive course at the Emergency Services Academy (ESA) in western Sydney to learn about dangers they could face and how they can protect the community.
Often they wore large protective suits - think space suits, only bigger - that protect them from toxins during their training.
They invited the Mercury to watch them in action in an airtight, fully-encapsulated suit worn during toxic vapour incidents.
"We'd probably wear that if it was an unknown problem. If we go to a call and someone has been overcome by fumes and we don't know what it is," firefighter McKellar said
It's their highest level of protection and after this type of incident, firefighters are decontaminated to protect them from spreading possible toxins back to the fire station and home to their families.
McKellar and Barritt paired up to demonstrate how decontaminations are done under high-pressure hose systems.
During other scenarios, the NSW Police bomb squad, along with radioactive and chemical experts taught firefighters how to identify substances used in making drugs and explosives.
When police raid a property that had drugs or explosive equipment, firefighters will often attend and use their expertise to help keep officers and the community safe.
"With the drug lab side of it, our main role is to monitor the atmosphere and make sure that the working environment is safe for the police as they're collecting their evidence," McKellar said.
Police officers will also go through the same decontamination process after these incidents.
Crews also learnt how to find and assess radioactive materials during the course thanks to the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation at the nuclear reactor facility in Lucas Heights.
And, while a procession of secure vehicles carrying a dignitary might sound like something out of a Hollywood blockbuster, firefighters also learnt to handle emergency situations and attacks on a dignitary and to keep them safe.
In the Illawarra chemical spills and toxic materials are common.
"Domestic chemical things [incidents] can be something as simple as someone's mixed chlorine mix wrong to put in the pool. That could happen really easily," McKellar said.
They're also regularly called to gas leaks, spills from car accidents and household spills.
"I've been a fiery for 16 years before I've decided to do this and it's just a different avenue and you just do different things," firefighter Barritt said. "I've seen a fair few things just as a regular firefighter, so it was good to branch out and do something different and learn some new skills."
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.