YESTERDAY Orange firefighter Peter Fuge hung up his boots and coat for good when he retired after 40 years on the job.
Life has changed a lot for firefighters since he first joined up with the Grenfell Fire Brigade in 1965.
Mr Fuge comes from a different era, when firefighters wore heavy brass helmets, thick woollen tunics and handmade leather boots.
Back then the station wasn’t manned 24-hours a day and there was only the station bell to alert firefighters that they were needed at the station.
“In those days we only had a big siren and if you weren’t within 500 to 600 meters you didn’t hear it,” Mr Fuge said.
Once they arrived, they climbed aboard a 1930 Dennis 250 fire truck, which carried no onboard water, and raced to the scene of the fire. They were amazing times Mr Fuge said.
Their first task at the scene was to find water to fight the fire.
“You had to try and find a hydrant and there weren’t always hydrants, there was a big time delay in terms of firefighting,” he said.
“In those days you didn’t get back-up, nowadays you get help from everywhere, in those days you had to do it yourself.”
Over those 40 years Mr Fuge has seen a lot of changes within the service and the biggest one has been in the equipment and personal protective clothing firefighters now wear.
Among the changes in equipment that help firefighters and the people they are trying to save is the thermal imaging camera.
“With a thermal camera you can find the seat of the fire and find people unconscious in the smoke,” he said.
Mr Fuge has worked at three stations throughout his career including six years at Grenfell, nine years at Mudgee and 25 at Orange fire station
For a firefighter with over four decades experience there are a few major incidents that you remember.
“The Barrett’s milk factory fire in the 1970s, it was totally destroyed, it rocked the whole town,” he said.
“A 100 pound gas cylinder split in half like a banana.
“The Royal Hotel went up on fire, it was a big one in my memory ... people were jumping down from the first floor.”
Fires in the Orange Civic Theatre building and the old Macquarie woollen mills also feature strongly in his memory as huge incidents.
After four decades of helping out his community as a retained (on call) firefighter it was a hip replacement in June this year that led to the end of his career.
“The surgeon said no, the ceramic socket could shatter,” he said.
So as he hung up the boots, the jacket and the helmet, Mr Fuge said there are a few things he’ll miss dearly including the comradeship and support.
“It’s been good to me but it’s good to go.”