Almost 100 firefighters with a total of 2236 years in the Rural Fire Service were honoured for their commitment on Sunday.
Lower Hunter RFS bestowed 98 recipients with National and Long-Service Medals, which recognised service ranging from 10 years to several decades.
National Medals are awarded to emergency service personnel who have given 15 years to one organisation, such as defence force, police, fire or ambulance.
Long-Service Medals are an RFS initiative honouring those who have notched up 10 years in the brigade.
Clasps are awarded for each additional 10 years in both programs.
Lower Hunter RFS acting manager Inspector Martin Siemsen said it was fantastic to honour the hard-working staff and volunteers, who gave up their time to protect other people.
“It’s great to recognise their efforts and the support of their families,” he said. “It means a lot to all of us.
“Ten years in any organisation is a long commitment, and past that point is just extraordinary.
“The volunteers are doing it for absolutely no remuneration, and this is certainly a worthy award to recognise their efforts.”
The day was also a celebration of the fire control’s new training ground, which was officially opened after construction finished in June.
The modern facility was constructed largely thanks to the NSWRFS Brigades and Donations Trust, which donated $100,000 to the project and also recently funded four other training facilities across the state.
The donation helped bring construction of the multi-purpose building four years ahead of schedule.
The new facility included a Hot Fire Cell and Flashover Simulator, which replicates real conditions for firefighters to practice using breathing apparatus in.
The building was also set up like a house, for the firefighters to learn search and rescue techniques as well as how to find the source of the fire. It can also be used as an area to practice safe work at heights.
Externally, the training ground included a car fire prop, as well as more space to eventually expand the facility.
Inspector Siemsen said they wanted to give firefighters the best training to prepare for the real thing.
“We want to simulate the conditions as close as we can,” he said.
“So they understand what it’s like and can deal with that environment.”
NSWRFS and Brigades and Donations Trust chairman Glen Wall said the people who donated to the RFS should be proud they had funded something that would safeguard firefighters lives.
“We sincerely thank everybody who makes contributions and donations,” he said.