51 years on and Fire and Rescue NSW station officer Bob McDonald still going strong

CONGRATULATIONS: Station officer Bob McDonald is awarded for 50 years service by Metro North 1 duty commander Inspector Peter Nies. Picture: supplied

CONGRATULATIONS: Station officer Bob McDonald is awarded for 50 years service by Metro North 1 duty commander Inspector Peter Nies. Picture: supplied

Bob McDonald joined the fire brigade when he was 21 because he wanted a secure job and more time to surf.

Fast forward 51 years, and the Cooks Hill man is still with Fire and Rescue NSW.

The roster was pretty terrible back then Bob says, but what kept him going back - other than the afternoon shifts allowing him to surf in the mornings - was the people.

"The word you often hear is camaraderie," he said. "You can be turning up to a situation where you really do depend on your mates.

"You're eating meals together, responding to calls together. It's like a second family situation."

There's been times on the job he's needed that support, from both his work family and his actual family.

"I often think of a double fatality I went to, it was like going onto an Alfred Hitchcock movie set - there was blood everywhere.

"I was with my best mate - my wife - after it. We were in a fast food restaurant with our kids and I just cried my eyes out.

"That's the key - you have to release it. That's how I can talk about it now. I had to write a report for the coroner so I had to relive it, but I got a lot of support from the guys around me."

Describing the job as "rewarding and educational and scary", Mr McDonald has been here, there and everywhere in his time with Fire and Rescue and responded to a huge range of incidents.

He started his career in Sydney - as all firies did back then - before he was transferred to Newcastle.

He later spent more time in Sydney then moved to Tighes Hill, Mayfield West, Waratah and Toronto before finally transferring back to Newcastle a year ago.

He mentions a major truck fire at Toronto a few years ago as one of the scariest incidents he's ever attended.

"We were the first appliance there," he said. "A truck had caught fire in the southbound lane of the highway and because of the size of it traffic had built up.

"We had to travel south in the northbound lane for quite a few kilometres to get to it.

"It was daytime, but when we got to it the smoke was so thick one of the guys had to get out and guide us through.

"That one had everything - it was pretty scary."

But Mr McDonald said despite his age and the difficulty of the job, he doesn't plan to give it up in the near future.

"I still feel like I joined yesterday," he said. "They all make First Fleet jokes and horse and cart jokes, but I still feel okay and I still enjoy it."