After 69 years of helping his mates out, Narromine's Gordon Heckendorf has received an Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM).
The 85-year-old group captain of the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) was presented his AFSM on May 17 at Government House by the Governor of NSW Margaret Beazley.
On receiving the award, group captain Heckendorf said it was "fantastic" to receive the honour for his service not only to the NSW RFS but to the community of NSW.
"I've always been part of the fire brigade, because it's just a mate helping another mate out," group captain Heckendorf said.
Group Captain Heckendorf first joined the fire brigade in 1950 at Forbes, then shortly after in 1954 became a member of the Tyrie and Corry brigades where he has held the positions of deputy captain, captain in 1975 and group captain in 1995.
"Anyone on a farm would have something to do with the fire brigade, because its part of running your farm business," group captain Heckendorf said.
"Then in 1975 the captain said 'would you like to take the job [as Captain] on?' ... he said you only have to take it on for three to four years and someone else takes it on."
Now 69 years later and the group captain said, "they won't let me go".
His citation read that group captain Heckendorf has been a pivotal leader in a senior management role for a number of years representing the members of Narromine in major district decisions.
"He has been an advocate for the training, mentoring and has assisted in the management and delivery of the bush firefighter grassland, crew leader grassland programs and brigade recruitment for the rural remote brigades in the area," the citation read.
"His wealth of knowledge is invaluable to the Orana Team and the mentoring that he does is above and beyond what is expected of him.
"Group Captain Heckendorf's dedication, passion and distinguished leadership as both a volunteer make him a most valuable member of the NSW RFS."
Group captain Heckendorf said he has "thoroughly enjoyed the role" and reminisced on his time in the service.
"The biggest fire we had out here was back in 1975, it burnt about 50,000 acres which went all the way through to Dandaloo," he said
"It was a shocking day. It would have taken within 24 hours [to control]."
Over 69 years the group captain has seen a number of changes in the fire brigade.
"When I started in the fire brigade in 1950 the only thing we had to put out fires was wet bags, leather fire beaters and horse-drawn vehicles with water tanks on and hand pumps, but now we have the smartest gear in the world," he said.
"It's completely turned around from that old gear we used to have, then we got old trucks with a mop up pump and we thought that was fantastic.
"Now all these smart trucks now with air conditioned cabs and sprays out the front you can move in any direction, two-way systems ... it's unreal the difference."