Owen Tydd has been fighting fires since he was an 11-year-old farm boy - now just three months shy of his 71st birthday, he's still in the Rural Fire Service.
Mr Tydd is being honoured with an Australian Fire Service Medal in this year's Australia Day honours.
But the Liverpool Range group 4 captain said it was not about him - "it's for all of us".
"I'm accepting this honour for group 4. I couldn't do it without [them]. It is a team effort," he said.
The Kelvin-born man's father was deputy captain when he joined the service.
"In the old days, the males joined the bush brigade, the women joined the Country Women's Association .... the blokes went out and got dirty and put out the fire, and the women put on the tucker," he said.
"A lot of us fought fires with wet bags and pretty makeshift equipment ... there was no training in those days."
Mr Tydd recently moved to Gunnedah but has spent most of his time in the Kelvin brigade. He has also volunteered in the Breeza, Garrawilla and Bundella brigades.
He was first nominated as a group captain in 1996 and took charge of his major fire in 1997 when the Pilliga Forest was ablaze.
"I had a section in the Gunnedah shire - I had 22km to look after - [and] I didn't know what I was doing," he said.
"We had to fly by the seat of our pants, literally, but we got through it and won the battle, and I suppose you'd say I developed my style, which is pretty laidback."
Mr Tydd wound up training firefighters for 20-odd years and said he was known for throwing more inexperienced firefighters in the deep end.
He believes people learn by doing, so he hands the reins to firefighters he thinks have potential and stands back to see how they handle it.
The approach has resulted in a growth in leadership in brigades and tapped into unrealised potential.
Mr Tydd has two years remaining as a "groupie", then says he will step back and focus on mentoring.
"The young ones coming up, we need them," he said.
"I'm not going to be around forever."