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To the hundreds of volunteer firefighters who won't get to knock off this Christmas, thank you.

For many workplaces around Australia, today is the last day of work.

Many will go into “shutdown” or “skeleton staff” as employers allow their workers to head off for a relaxing and lazy Christmas and New Year break.

You’re probably sick of hearing people exclaim “yep, just limping to the finish line” and “I’m just so busy/tired/stressed” as they try to get all of their loose ends tied up before kicking into full blown festive mode.

Our volunteer firefighters aren’t being afforded the luxury of a finish line.

This young girl is among those protesting outside the Prime Minister’s house. Post continues after video.

Video via River McCrossen

For the next seven days, New South Wales will be in a state of emergency as temperatures swelter and the fire threat remains high. Last night, we lost two volunteers who were fighting a blaze south west of Sydney. Their vehicle rolled while they were fighting the flames.

Six more were injured yesterday, and thousands across most Australian states are preparing to barely see their partners or their children as they work right through Christmas.

They’re tired and they’re losing momentum. They don’t have enough rotations, proper helmets, annual leave, or even uniforms to keep up with the constant, unwavering demand that’s barely budged since September.

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The bushfires have burnt through the most land on modern record across eastern New South Wales. We’ve experienced Australia’s highest fire weather danger on record for Spring since 1950, and we’ve had the country’s hottest day since 2013.

The fires have burnt through 2.7 million hectares (which is the size of Wales) and hundreds are still burning, many out of control. More than five million people have spent weeks, if not months, breathing in the equivalent of a pack a day of cigarettes.

We’re experiencing an unprecedented fire season. In the words of former fire chief Greg Mullins, “We’re facing a catastrophe, because our climate is hotter, drier and our seasons longer – and we simply can’t deal anymore”.

bushfire smoke mask
Sydney has been blanketed in smoke for weeks. Image: Getty.

Fighting fires is not how our volunteers want to spend their summer.

Meg McGowan's husband Graham would prefer to be writing or playing music, or building things for the garden, or teaching permaculture, or any one of his many hobbies.

"I would rather have him here. We could both do without the stress and anxiety but we both understand the importance of what he and his fellow RFS colleagues are doing," she wrote in a now viral post.

Graham is over 60, officially retired, and he's had asthma all his life. He's fighting the fires while knowing his own home is being left undefended from the flames.

He's just one of the men and women and just one of the thousands of stories of bravery and sacrifice.

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Graham is in the background facing the camera. He'd prefer to be at home this summer. Image: Facebook/Permacoach.
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Our volunteers are putting their lives, their mental health and their most important relationships on the line to help save our country from the fires. They're the kind of people who keep pushing themselves beyond the point where their bodies tell them to stop.

They're doing it because they're passionate and because they truly care about not just other people's livelihoods but our country.

They don't have to miss Christmas morning with their families - they can skip the fire-front that day if they want. They're volunteers after all, it's not their job.

But they won't.

So to the firefighters: We know you're tired and fed-up. We know you'd prefer to be kicking back with a beer this Christmas. We know you're running on little to no sleep and haven't been able to wash the smell of smoke from your hair in weeks.

We know you're hurting.

So from the bottom of our hearts, thank you. You are true heroes.

Do you have a message for the firies? Let them know in the comments below.

You can donate to the NSW Rural Fire Service here.

You can donate to the Victorian CFA here.

You can donate to the South Australian CFS here.

You can donate to Queensland's RFBAQ here.

... And there's more.

Mamamia Out Loud, our bi-weekly podcast, is coming to Melbourne for a live show, with 100 per cent of all ticket proceeds going to the Australian Red Cross disaster relief and recovery fund.

It's a brand new show, full of laughs and news and opinions and a few special surprises, with Mia Freedman, Holly Wainwright and Jessie Stephens, on February the 11th. You can buy tickets right now at mamamia.com.au/events. See you there! 

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