After spending the better part of a week fighting one of the worst bushfires in 25 years, a group of firefighters have returned to Ballarat.
The strike team comprised of 28 Country Fire Authority volunteers from Districts 15 and 16 - the Ballarat and Ararat regions - returned to Ballarat a week after they departed for New South Wales.
Strike team leader Roger Perris said the team, with members from as far away as Horsham, linked up with dozens of other volunteers from across Australia.
"We did a lot of asset protection, community information type of work, then we started backburning around Colo Heights to help that community, and try and protect that area from the fire," he explained.
"It's great to know you've done something to help a community, especially our neighbours from New South Wales - they always come down here, so it's good to repay the favour.
"The team's been pretty good, they've worked really hard."
District 15 operations officer Gavin Hope praised the group for giving up their time and putting their lives on the line to help the cause in NSW.
"It goes without saying we're incredibly proud of the effort from those members who put aside their lives to help those in a very dangerous situation," he said.
Six lives and 530 homes have been lost since the season hit some weeks ago and the state faces at least two "tough days" this week, with temperatures likely to rise into the 40s and little to no rainfall.
More than 420 homes have been destroyed in the past fortnight alone.
Some 1.6 million hectares of land have been lost - more land loss than the entire 1993/1994 season, Rural Fire Service deputy commissioner Rob Rogers said.
Ahead of the firefighters' return to Ballarat, Mr Hope said their experience in NSW will be vital should a similar situation face the Ballarat region.
"There was a mix of veteran members and less experienced members who made the trip which provides an opportunity for growth," he said.
"Going into any situation like the one currently unfolding in NSW provides a great learning experience for our members, no matter what level of experience they have."
- with Alex Ford
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