WHEN Carolyn Noon joined the Woolbrook Fire Brigade in 1989, she would have never imagined she would be getting honoured for her service with a Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM) more than three decades later.
Having initially signed up to support her husband, who was captain of the unit, Ms Noon's volunteer career has taken on a life of its own as she has become one of the most integral members of the Rural Fire Service (RFS) in the New England.
It only took Ms Noon a couple of years to start taking on extra responsibilities and once she started that journey, it never really stopped.
Across her 32 years with the RFS, she has held the roles of brigade training officer, brigade secretary, and deputy group captain.
She also served as group captain for Tamworth and the New England Zone simultaneously, and acted as chair of the District Disciplinary Panel, displaying her incredible leadership abilities.
Ms Noon has had to face some incredibly tough situations in her career, having worked in incident control during the 2019-20 Moonbi fires.
"Mostly my job was, whether it was in 2019-20 or other major fires where I've gone into the incident management team, is to be supporting other group captains and getting them into the fire grounds," she said.
She was also among the first responders to the horrific Hamish McLaren incident in 1999, where she helped contain the situation until help arrived from Newcastle.
That was the catalyst for Tamworth receiving its own Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service base.
Despite having dealt with so many challenging situations, she said joining the RFS has been one of the best decisions of her life.
"I've loved my time in the service, it's got fantastic support for the females and getting females out there," she said.
"And I've just enjoyed the camaraderie of the RFS."
Understandably, Ms Noon is seen as a role model for aspiring female firefighters, and it is a label she puts a conscious effort into living up to.
While noting that she tries to support every new member, the AFSM recipient acknowledged it was important for her to act as a mentor for women in the service.
"I am supporting the females, and they all need support to get them through so they can do what they want to do," she said.
'And we've got some awesome females coming up through the ranks in the Tamworth district."
When Ms Noon heard she was receiving the AFSM, she said it came as huge surprise but did appreciate the acknowledgement of her work.
"I was very shocked, very proud and very honoured but I was shocked."
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