WHEN Denman Fire & Rescue NSW (FRNSW) Captain Gavin Bray called into station on Tuesday afternoon, he had no idea what was about to unfold.
Not only did he find all of his colleagues present, decked out in full attire, but FRNSW Central West Zone Commander Superintendent Brett Jackson and Inspector Peter Markham were also in attendance.
However, their motives were pure.
Superintendent Jackson and Inspector Markham made the long trek to Denman to present Captain Bray with his 1st Clasp for long service and good conduct medal, as well as a certificate to acknowledge the local firefighter’s nomination for the Commissioners Safety Award.
“It would be remiss of us not to recognise Gavin’s two decades of service with Fire & Rescue NSW,” Superintendent Jackson said.
“He always leads by example.
“But, Gavin recently went above and beyond when dealing with a retained firefighter, who was ill.
“He spent a lot of time with Louise Moore, and her family, to ensure they were okay.
“Gavin looked after their mental wellbeing, as well as the members of his team.
“In a sensitive situation, he showed a lot of compassion.
“Mental health is a big issue in brigades these days, so it was good to see Gavin take the next step.”
Captain Bray admitted he was “shocked” by the plaudits.
“It’s a great honour – and I’m humbled to receive it,” he said.
“Louise displayed plenty of enthusiasm in her time here, which rubbed off on all of us.
“She would dress up as one of Santa’s helpers for the Lolly Run or put on the Bernie Cinders costume if needed.
“Fittingly, her daughter Amy Kiem is following in Louise’s footsteps.”
Captain Bray admitted he had witnessed numerous changes over the past 20 years, too.
“I joined the [Denman] station on July 15, 1996,” he said.
“In fact, when I found out I ‘was in’, I was holidaying around Mt Isa.
“We were staying at a caravan park and, on the first night, the alarm sounded at the nearby [fire] station.
“My wife turned to me and asked ‘Is that what we’re in for?’
“We used to get four to five calls a month – now we receive the same amount each week.
“Denman has a much higher duty cycle these days.
“And, to meet the demands, our numbers have increased from 12 to 14.
“We’re also home to the 57th Volunteer Ambulance Officer and Community First Responder (VCFR) unit.”