Hawkesbury's Rural Fire Service volunteers were paid a special tribute during council's Australia Day awards ceremony held this morning at Hawkesbury Regional Gallery.
Not only was the entire group named Community Organisation of the Year, but long-serving member, Hawkesbury RFS deputy group captain David Ryan was declared the city's Citizen of the Year.
Mr Ryan joined the RFS at the age of 12 in 1972 with the Kangarubi RFS. He moved the the Hawkesbury and joined Grose Vale brigade before relocating to the Wilberforce headquarters.
He served as captain in the mid-90s and was appointed deputy group captain in 2000.
Over the years Mr Ryan has been involved in numerous major operations, including the blaze that devastated Gospers Mountain.
"On 12 November 2019 during a catastrophic day, Dave lead a team to safety along with two other group officers after being entrapped in a burn over at Elium Heights where the fire front came roaring out with flame heights of 60 metres and wind gusts high enough to rip metal sheet of tin off buildings," said council of one notable incident.
"Dave's decision to stage the crew in Elium Heights allowed every crew member to be able to return home safely."
In his 48 years with the RFS, Mr Ryan has received a National Bravery Award and Long Service Award.
The area's rural fire service's 1900 volunteers, across 21 fire brigades, a catering brigade and a communication brigade, can each claim part of the Community Organisation of the Year award.
The 2019-20 fire season will be long remembered by the Hawkesbury members. Our volunteers attended more than 600 incident calls, of which the Gospers Mountain fire was one. Of course, this blaze alone accounted for approximately 270,000 hours of toil for Hawkesbury volunteers.
"Many volunteers donated their time, by way of using holidays, Long Service Leave days, as well as accrued days off and many used unpaid leave days," said council in its awards notes. "Family life was actually put on hold, with many volunteers not spending time at home with families over the Christmas period."
Also related to the devastating fires, was the Environmental Award for WIRES Hawkesbury.
The group was deemed to have "made a significant contribution" to the local environment during and after the fires.
"The local wildlife has benefited, and in turn, our community; it was comforting knowing WIRES were on hand and supporting our wildlife in a challenging time," said the council.
"WIRES have been integral in supporting disaster response and recovery for wildlife during the fires; this has been crucial to the recovery of our environment."
Other council Australia Day Award recipients were: Sam Bonus [Young Citizen of the Year]; Suzi Samuel [Volunteer of the Year]; Karen Stuttle [Local Hero Award]; Holly Dalrymple [Junior Sportsperson of the Year]; and Arabella Logan [Community Arts Award].
Hawkesbury Mayor Patrick Conolly congratulated all the recipients.
"Congratulations and thank you for the many wonderful contributions you have made to our Hawkesbury community," he said.