A fire captain's 32-year commitment to protecting people and mentoring firefighters in Lightning Ridge has been recognised in today's Australia Day Honours.
Lightning Ridge Fire Station Captain John Bevan has been awarded an Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM) - the highest honour an Australian firefighter can receive - for outstanding service to Fire and Rescue NSW over the past 32 years.
"It's an honour," Mr Bevan said of the award.
"It's an enormous honour to even be nominated for it actually."
Mr Bevan joined the Lightning Ridge fire brigade as a retained firefighter at the "ripe old" age of 18 in May 1987, well before he'd ever even heard of the AFSM.
"I joined to return something back to the community," he said.
"There was no RFS in Lightning Ridge back then and the firies were struggling, so it seemed like a logical step.
"You don't join it for the money, you join it for the comradeship and mateship and giving something back to the community."
Since then, Mr Bevan has worked his way up through the ranks to deputy captain and captain, a role he's held since about 1997. In fact, he's only the third captain of the Lightning Ridge station, which opened in 1982.
"I'm nearly part of the furniture," Mr Bevan laughed.
During his time with FRNSW, Mr Bevan has gained wide operational experience, including successfully leading crews at major campaign events such as the 1999 Sydney hail storms and the 2001 Blue Mountains bushfire. He's also sent crews to the Blue Mountains and Warrumbungle bushfires in 2013.
Mr Bevan said his fire career has been "interesting".
"You see a lot of sadness, but also happiness," he said of the job.
"It's quite amazing when people are thankful, even though they might have just lost everything. We are there to help make a bad day better. It's amazing the thanks and appreciation you get from the community."
He has also been a proponent of diversity at the station, with his team comprising equal male and female firefighters from Indigenous, non-Indigenous and mixed cultural backgrounds. There are currently 16 firefighters at Lightning Ridge, seven of whom are female, with people from the Philippines, the Czech Republic and Wales, as well as an Aboriginal man.
"We are a unique station; we've got all kinds of nationalities," Mr Bevan said.
"We're a multicultural town and we've got a multicultural station."
His ability to attract and maintain a retained workforce in a remote part of the state is widely admired. He also supports the community through participation in a number of local events and through education initiatives at schools, and was named Lightning Ridge's Citizen of the Year a few years ago.
Mr Bevan said his AFSM recognition is the result of an "understanding wife and a great team".
"It takes a good crew and an understanding family," he said.
"You're up all hours of the night. The other night I was up until 2am. If I wasn't self-employed I wouldn't have been able to go to work the next day."
When he's not fighting fires, Mr Bevan and his wife Neroli are opal miners and tourist operators, owning Bevan's Cactus Nursery.
FRNSW Commissioner Paul Baxter congratulated Captain Bevan, who is one of three FRNSW firefighters to be awarded the prestigious medal in today's honours.
"Captain Bevan's commitment and dedication to FRNSW and to the people of far north west NSW is exemplary," he said.
"He has played a valued role in supporting the work of the Lightning Ridge Fire Station, one of the most remote stations in NSW.
"I commend Captain Bevan for his work at Lightning Ridge Fire Station and the environmental challenges faced by working in such a remote location, such as extremely hot weather conditions and water supply challenges.
"He has demonstrated exemplary leadership and a proactive commitment to fire safety, diversity and inclusion, and is a most worthy recipient of this Australia Day Honour."
Captain Bevan will be presented with his AFSM at a ceremony later in the year.