Gunnedah's Paul Hartley says he won't give up firefighting "until I can't get in the truck by myself".
The well-known local celebrated 45 years with Fire and Rescue NSW Gunnedah on Saturday and is the longest-serving firefighter in the brigade - but "not the oldest". That honour is taken by fellow firie David Moses.
Mr Hartley has "worn six [captains] out" over the years, but current captain David Welch said the retained firefighter was "a valued member and mentor of our team".
"He has a wicked sense of humour but is the utmost professional in upholding FRNSW values," Captain Welch said.
"[Forty-five years] is a massive achievement and a fantastic milestone. Well done to him and his family for the huge sacrifices."
Mr Hartley joined the local brigade at the age of 19 at the suggestion of then-captain Harold Hazeltine, who said he may as well sign up if he was going to hang around his step-daughter.
Mr Hartley's brother Ken came on board not long after, as did Ray and Ross Scott, and John, Steve and Matt Pickett.
"They all - one, two, three - joined up. We had three brothers, two brothers and two brothers in at the one time," he said.
Mr Hartley said he and his brother used to race one another to the station when their pagers went off, but "I don't sprint anymore".
In those days, there was no formal interview and Mr Hartley was simply told to "follow him and he'll show you what to do". A lot has changed since then, but "you just adapt over the years".
"When I joined, it was: 'Put the fire out. If it's a little fire, use a little hose. If it's a big fire, use a big hose'," Mr Hartley said.
Now older and wiser, the deputy captain believes it is important to pass on what he knows to younger generations of firefighters.
"It's no good taking skills to the grave with you. You've got to share them. Try and teach them what you know. All the good stuff, anyhow," he said.
"You tell them stuff that's going to look after them. The more they know, the safer you are."
Trust is another vital element in Fire and Rescue.
"You've got to trust every other bugger here. You might rev them up ... but you've got trust them with your life," Mr Hartley said.
"It sounds a bit dramatic, but that's exactly what you do. You're betting your life on their ability to save you if something happens to you, and vice versa.
"Even off the fireground, you look after each other."
Over the years, Mr Hartley has seen his fellow firefighters in all manners of dress - and undress - when they respond to calls and hotfoot it to the stations.
"We had one fella - we won't even mention his name - half asleep, go straight out of bed, jumped in the car and drove down here. He was naked," Mr Hartley said.
"[People] turn up in jammies, dressing gowns, pjs, whatever they've got on.
"They'll come down in their really good gear - high heels and makeup - the girls. Blokes have turned up in suits, having come from a ball."
It's no good taking skills to the grave with you. You've got to share them.Paul Hartley, Fire and Rescue NSW Gunnedah
Mr Hartley said his pager had been "a part of me" for 30 years, but there were times it wasn't worth the rush to the station.
"I tell the newbies, there's probably three occasions you don't jump up and race to the station," he said.
"One's if you're in the shower because you cannot pull clothes on if you're wet ... You could get a raincoat on, maybe, but you're not going to make the truck so you may as well take your time and dry yourself and get dressed.
"On the throne - finish what you're doing, because there's no good rushing. And bedroom duties. Well, you're not leaving over that."
The 64-year-old said he thought he was "getting a bit slower" at responding to calls but he'll "get a few more years in yet".
"You still get the buzz. You control the adrenaline rush. That took a little while to get over - probably about 10 years. Everybody, once you get in the truck, you get hyped up," he said.
"I don't think I've ever rolled over when the bells have gone off at night and thought, 'Stuff this'.
"I think if you like something - that's why it's gone so quick. I don't know where the time's gone. Enjoy it, stick at it, keep breathing - that always helps.
"I'll stay until I can't get in the truck by myself. If I need a boost, I'll know it's time to go."
Related story:Daniel keen to kick on with Gunnedah Fire and Rescue