Upper Ferntree Gully Fire Brigade Captain Peter Smith was speechless after receiving his 45-year service medal – a rarity, anyone who’s met him would attest.
“I am lucky enough to have all my family here tonight,” he said, choking back tears.
“To my wife Meredith, thank you very much.”
It was among many emotional moments at the CFA crew’s annual dinner at the Upper Ferntree Gully Cricket Club on Saturday 10 November.
Five other volunteer firefighters received service awards alongside Capt Smith – Mark Goodchild 30 years, Craig Waters 20, Andrew Ritchie 15, and Tom Hooper and Matt Lean five each.
They’d served 120 years between them.
Rod Clarke and Darren Johnson received National Medals for their diligent service and Darren’s daughter, Amber, was named Best First Year Firefighter.
The Mail spoke to the 17-year-old Mater Christi College student back in August.
“When they started the juniors program I was straight on it,” she said.
“Then I just started from there and kept going.”
The Firefighter of the Year nod went to Daniel Abraham for his “unbelievable” work ethic, and Dylan Knowles took home the Utility Fire Fighter award.
Sign-writing couple Michael and Karen Frawley were made brigade life members for their support, and received a replica of an old brigade pumper.
“What you do around the station, you might think it’s frivolous but it’s not,” Capt Smith said.
“We love you to bits and thank you very much.”
A gobsmacked Mr Frawley said he used to be a brigade member.
“We’re self-employed so we give our time back to the community,” he said.
“We sign write their trucks and honour boards and stickers for their helmets.”
Montrose 10-year-old Mia presented the brigade with a cheque for $2200, which she raised at a trivia night last month.
Capt Smith in turn presented her with a trophy and thanks for her efforts.
The night also included a video documenting a string of incidents that rocked the brigade 10 years ago, including losing a member in a house fire.
“We fought that house fire. We cried at that house fire,” Capt Smith said.
They lost a truck to flames while fighting a fire in Birdsland Reserve two weeks after Black Saturday.
Capt Smith and two other crew members were lucky to survive.
“We were down. We got back up,” he said.