Firefighters in New South Wales (NSW), Australia launched an urgent crowdfunding appeal to purchase better safety equipment after finding that state-issued face masks weren’t sufficient protection in the field.

“Our brigade has been desperately trying to protect homes and property – completely exhausted – and I’m horrified to say this, using NSW Rural Fire Service-issued dust masks to protect our airways,” Joe Arena, treasurer of Copacabana Rural Fire Brigade, told ABC Central Coast on Tuesday.

“In defence of the RFS, these are unprecedented conditions, on a scale no one could have anticipated, but we have no choice but to go out and fight fire with what we have.”

The volunteer crew is among the first responders tackling the ‘mega fire’ which formed when several bushfires burning north of Sydney combined, creating a blaze covering more than 320,000 hectares. (RT)