THERE are not many people who could get up and walk out of a wedding anniversary celebration with their wife without getting in a whole lot of trouble.
Gavin Pears has been a volunteer firefighter with the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) for 23 years and he says his pager has gone off in the middle of so many events with friends and family that he has lost count.
When he was just 16 years old he first joined Bogan Headquarters Brigade (now Nyngan Headquarters Brigade) when he lived in that region. In 1994, he moved to Bathurst and joined the Bathurst Rural Fire Brigade where he is now the captain.
This week, Captain Pears was among 23 RFS volunteers across Bathurst who received long service medals for a combined 529 years of commitment.
In the 23 years since Captain Pears joined the RFS he has been called to assist his community many hundreds of times.
He attended the State Mine fire near Lithgow in 2013 which tore through 56,000 hectares of land for almost a month, and also the 2010 fire in Vittoria that left former police officer Bernie Schulte with burns covering 80 per cent of his body.
At the Vittoria fire we were driving down the track, we had flames up beside the truck that were three to 3.5 metres high.
“Every big fire is scary because you don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said.
“At the Vittoria fire we were driving down the track, we had flames up beside the truck that were three to 3.5 metres high.
“When flames are hitting the side of the truck everyone is dead quiet.”
Captain Pears said while modern firefighter clothing protects crews from the heat of a blaze, a fire’s “unpredictability” was always a serious concern.
“We always tell our new members ‘be afraid of fire, because you never know what it’s going to do’,” he said.
Captain Pears said the RFS was very different now, compared to when he joined, with better training, equipment, uniforms and strategic planning to tackle blazes.
When asked why he had dedicated so many years to serving his community through the RFS, his answer was simple.
“I enjoy doing it, it’s a big family. Not just our brigade but the region,” he said.
Captain Pears said it was an honour to receive his long service medal alongside his colleagues this week.
“It feels good because you’re appreciated for what you do, we are volunteers, it’s the RFS’ way of saying thanks,” he said.
Despite the number of times he, and every other firefighter, gets called away from a family event, Captain Pears said he would not change a thing.
“It helps to have a family that understands, as you can miss out on a birthday party, Christmas or it could be you’re kid’s first day at school,” he said.
“It’s just something you do, you’re giving back to the community.”
NSW RFS long service medal recipients
- Stephen Alexander, 10 years
- Valentina (Tina) Fabian, 11 years
- Robert Picker, 11 years
- Michael Willott, 11 years
- Skye Dawes, 12 years
- Lyndi Osmond, 14 years
- Aaron Dollery, 15 years
- Ian Forsyth, 15 years
- George Nicholls, 15 years
- Graeme Ross, 15 years
- Gareth Sutton, 15 years
- Rodney Lane, 16 years
- Trevor Johnson, 18 years
- Gay Dawson, 22 years
- Russell Dawson, 22 years
- Gavin Pears, 23 years
- Shirley Colzato, 24 years
- Louise Humphries, 26 years
- Patrick Linnane, 33 years
- Phillip Smith, 41 years
- Bruce Drakeford, 50 years
- Harry Whalan, 52 years
- Jeffrey King, 58 years