THE HUGE task of cleaning up communities devastated by bushfire has been taken on by a group of local boys with big hearts.
About 25 youths employed by BackTrack Works in Armidale have been camping out across the region for the past month, helping repair bushfire damage after flames ravaged the area.
Repairing fences, replacing roofs and mowing the cricket pitch are just some of the tasks they're doing in towns like Torrington, Yarrowitch and Tenterfield.
BackTrack founder Bernie Shakeshaft said communities couldn't be more grateful for the help of the "kids", who are aged between 15 and 22 years old.
It's pretty touching to see these older people baking cakes and coming past and leaving them on the fence post.Bernie Shakeshaft
"It's pretty touching to see these older people baking cakes and coming past and leaving them on the fence post," he told the Leader.
"They say they just want to jump the fence and give the boys a hug, this is not the time nor the era for that, but it's pretty touching when you see it and the amount of community support."
Mr Shakeshaft said the work has not only kept the group of young men employed and off welfare, but it's also been a powerful experience.
"When you go into some of those zones that have just been absolutely scorched, and they're still pretty average, and you see the houses burnt and the sheds down and just devastation," he said.
"It puts kids in a very quiet, reserved kind of spot, and when you're there you can see the need for getting in and giving a hand."
BackTrack is a program based in Armidale and takes in local teens and young adults to help them reach their goals after a rough start at life.
It's an initiative which helped Mr Shakeshaft win the 2020 NSW Local Hero of the Year Award. But for him, there's heroes all around us.
"To get so much positive feedback, particularly for many of these young people, it's not a thing that they're entirely used to, being seen in a good light, but it's pretty touching," he said.
When you go in, you see the devastation, but also the resilience ... there are heroes in Tenterfield, Torrington, Armidale, Tamworth, they're all across the countryside.Bernie Shakeshaft
"When you go in, you see the devastation, but also the resilience ... there are heroes in Tenterfield, Torrington, Armidale, Tamworth, they're all across the countryside and to be working alongside some of those people, it's a great learning experience and opportunity for the young people we work with."
The coronavirus pandemic has put the fires on the backburner, according to Mr Shakeshaft. But, it also provided the perfect opportunity for his team to leave the city and help out where it's needed.
"It's taking kids out of town, they're camping out in the bush, they're not in contact with people, yet they're still continuing in a mightily important job," he said.
"There are still so many farmers out there doing it tough.
"We love camping ... they're learning a lot of things from how to cook, getting up and staring work on time."
BackTrack has been liaising with police and local councils, and the boys are on a rotating roster so it's easy to maintain social distancing.