RECENTLY, Fire and Rescue NSW adopted a new philosophy to their work, “anything, anywhere, anytime” but Gunnedah firefighter Paul Hartley believes that motto has existed for many years.
He should know.
On July 15, Paul celebrated 44 years as a retained firefighter with Fire and Rescue NSW and is currently the most experienced firefighter stationed at Gunnedah having served his entire tenure at the station.
“It has gone by so fast,” he said.
“Time really has flown, I guess that’s what happens when your having fun.”
Now a deputy captain, Paul told the Namoi Valley Independent he joined the service for an unusual reason.
“So my first captain was Hank Hazeldine and I was taking his step-daughter out at the time, and he said to me ‘well if you’re hanging around here enough you may as well join up’, and that’s how I got my start,” he said.
“I’m still here with the firefighters and it doesn’t seem that long ago that I got started and it has just gone by so quick.”
While there have been many changes to the service during his 44 year tenure, Paul believes the bond between the firefighters has remained a constant.
“Well, I guess you could say that I have been pretty lucky to have served with so many great blokes,” he said.
“There is a real care between each other for sure, you spend a lot of time together and honestly the group of guys we have here at the moment are just terrific.
“Having such a strong team around you certainly helps keep you going.”
The deputy captain attributed his longevity to “being ready for anything” and having a “good attitude”.
“Every time you get called to a job you never really know what to expect,” he said.
“No two jobs are the same, so being prepared for anything means that you can adapt to any situation.
“I think having a good attitude will hold you in good stead in whatever you do, for example I can remember attending a car accident and the lady involved and I were friends, while I was helping her she said to me ‘I didn’t know you could be serious’.
“I thought that was very funny because it means people view me as funny and approachable even when I’m working, and while there are times to be serious it’s good to know people think of me like that.”
Current Fire and Rescue captain Dave Welch praised Paul’s efforts throughout the years.
“It is an awesome milestone to achieve that’s for sure,” Captain Welch said.
“We as a team and community want to congratulate Paul on his milestone and thank him for his service.”
Paul said he had no immediate plans of calling it a day and hanging up his helmet.
“Well I have thought about it, and I think if the day comes when I can’t physically bring something to the table that is when I will retire,” he said.
“Besides, while I am the longest serving firefighter, Dave Moses is still the oldest serving firefighter in Gunnedah and in my book that’s all that counts.
“But in all seriousness, I wouldn’t have gone this long without the support of my wife and family, they have been great and hopefully will continue to back me until I do decide to call it a day.”