After five decades in the service, Dubbo fireman Peter Ryan is hanging up his hat and heat proof jacket and heading into retirement.
Mr Ryan started his career at the Dubbo Fire Station on the first of June 1972, and officially retired on the 6th of October 2022.
"I worked there for 50 years, four months and six days if you want to be exact. I'm still healthy and able to do the job. But there is a point when you get up there and you think 'hey, it's time to move on'," he told the Daily Liberal.
"It's all about a life balance, even when you're doing community service, it's also about a family balance and looking out for yourself. Our children are grown up now, we've got grandchildren, and I'm looking forward to spending more quality family time with them.
"It's nice now to get a good night's sleep. There's no pagers going off or the old house bells we had going off."
Over 50 years, a lot has changed for Fire and Rescue NSW in Dubbo.
New communications technology has come about making it easier for the fire service to get information about incidents, uniforms and equipment have improved and staffing numbers have grown to reflect the growth in Dubbo's population.
"In the early days we all had a set of house bells added on our wall which was activated from the fire station when there was a fire call. And there was a siren you could hear around the city - if you were out at the golf course you could hear it," he said.
Amidst all that one thing hasn't changed - the focus on serving the community which inspired him to get on board in the first place.
"I was only 21 when I joined. I was tied up with the boy scouts for a long time so I was used to working in service or in community service," he explains.
"It was also a matter of opportunity, because where I worked at the time was right opposite the old fire station on Wingewarra and Darling Street. I already knew a lot of the staff there and when a vacancy came up one of the guys said 'hey, would you like to join us'?"
His work for the Dubbo Fire Station has also taken him far outside the city boundaries.
His station has access to state-of-the art equipment for dealing with hazardous materials which means they often get called out as far as Lightning Ridge, Bourke and Cobar.
"I've been all the way to the Queensland border down past Forbes, almost to Condobolin and on a very specialised job over behind Blayney. We certainly do some miles in the hazmat vehicles," he said.
"About this time last year we were responding to a supermarket fire in Bourke. And there was a supermarket fire in Walgett in 2019, we had vehicles from Dubbo at that.
The supermarket in Walgett actually burned down in 2013 and they built a brand new one. And would you believe it, it burned down again. That was quite devastating for the community and purely circumstantial."
One of the most memorable jobs of Mr Ryan's career, he said, was the fire at the Flour Mill on Brisbane Street in December of 1974.
"That was a massive structure alight - it was quite spectacular and went for quite a number of days," he said.
"I can't go to every job because I have a family and a business I have to be responsible for. So I've been to a lot of jobs, but there are a lot I haven't been to as well. Someone has to stay in Dubbo and help look after the city."
Working as a firefighter and being present for what are sometimes the most stressful or darkest days for people in the community has sometimes been confronting, said Mr Ryan.
Throughout his career, he's been a passionate advocate for mental health for first responders.
"I've worked in peer support and crisis intervention as a voluntary side of the fire brigade. Basically that means working with the guys who've been to some of the 'nasties', as I call them," he said.
"I could turn around and tell you different jobs that I've been to that would turn your stomach but I'm not going to - I don't wish to do that. But unfortunately firefighters and first responders do have to see that.
"It's a matter of looking after yourself and not getting too deeply involved. You can give the people a hug and let them cry on your shoulder, but then move on. Because at the end of the day you don't wish to become a victim of your own circumstances."
While responding to emergencies is what most people think of when they think of firefighters - Mr Ryan says education and community outreach is an equally important part of the job.
As part of his role with Fire and Rescue NSW, Mr Ryan also spent 16 years delivering fire safety training all around the state with ComSafe - the fire department's commercial training division.
"The highlight of that was my first job with ComSafe was doing fire safety instruction at the Parkes radio telescope. And my last job with ComSafe in December 2020 was the same - at the Parkes telescope," he explained.
"It's all about community education and community safety."
As he hangs up his hat and heads into retirement Mr Ryan has a parting message for the community - install a smoke detector in your home.
"One of the things I'm particularly passionate about is smoke detectors. Smoke detectors save lives. In this day and age the amount of houses that are there with no fire protection when a $20 smoke detector could save a household," he said.
"I remember speaking to one lady in her car who told me she didn't have a smoke detector in her house. She had two teenage daughters in the back seat and I asked her, 'what price do you put on their lives?'.
"For just $20 you can get a device which will save your life."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: