Ian Sargent retired from a 38 year career with Fire & Rescue NSW in emotional scenes at Springwood Fire Station last Thursday, October 10.
Emergency services workers formed a guard of honour to farewell the 60-year-old, following a series of speeches from his colleagues including both retained and permanent firefighters.
Mr Sargent finished his career as one of four station officers at Springwood. His D Platoon colleagues - Mark Lutherborrow, Col Whiteman, Rafael Olmo, and Michael Kelly - led the tributes last week.
Mr Lutherborrow described him as a "strong leader and a great bloke".
"Sarge's passion for life is remarkable," he said. "He gives 100 per cent to all his endeavours whether that be Fire & Rescue NSW, his family, his running, anything that he puts his mind to. This also motivates all of those around him... By his example, he lifts those he works with."
Mr Sargent began his career at the fire service's Sydney headquarters before being stationed at Penrith. He also worked with the hazardous materials response unit and the Katoomba communications centre. When this closed he was redeployed to Springwood when it became a permanent station in 2013.
It was a happy career change. Mr Sargent has lived in Springwood since 1984 and raised his family in the village.
One of his daughters, Claire Russell, followed her father's footsteps to become a firefighter. She is also stationed at Springwood.
Mr Sargent said he counts himself lucky he finished his career "mentally unscathed", with many firefighters experiencing harrowing incidents.
But working during the 2013 Blue Mountains bushfires was still one of the more challenging times, he said.
"That was a pretty intense period - and then the aftermath. Being in town after people had lost 200 houses was a pretty sad time," he said.
"I do have empathy with people who lost houses... You speak to people and you put your arm around them as a firefighter and say 'Is there anything the fire brigade can do for you?'. If there is, we do it. Even if it's outside our scope of responsibility we do whatever we can to ease that time."
Mr Sargent said the service places greater emphasis on the mental well-being of its firefighters then when he started in the job. It is a change he has welcomed and embraced.
"As a boss I was acutely aware of not only physical health, but mental health and family life as well."
He said he worked hard at creating an atmosphere of camaraderie and banter among his platoon.
"But when you see the lights flash and the bells go off, that's all gone. You get on the truck, put your game face on and do whatever needs to be done."