When Fire & Rescue NSW Illawarra zone commander Superintendent Tony Waller was named overall winner in a paid capacity at the 2019 Rotary Emergency Services Community Awards on Friday it was a win for the whole community.
Supt Waller brought a wealth of experience with him when he was transferred to Wollongong Fire Station earlier this year as the senior officer in the region.
He was previously the technical manager responsible for rescue, driver, first aid, breathing apparatus and firefighter training at the training academy in Sydney.
His background in urban search and rescue saw him called to help in Christchurch after the earthquake, Proserpine after Cyclone Betty and a major flood event in the Northern Rivers.
His other roles include being a rescue crewman with the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service for 35 years, a Scout leader and director of education on the board of Surf Life Saving NSW.
"I feel a little embarrassed by the win and all the attention because as a superintendent I should be nominating other people," he said.
"It is nice to be recognised for the work I have done in the community but It is not really about me.
"The finalists were all emergency service personnel but each of their stories is so much more.
"They all wear multiple hats with multiple agencies. And on top of their emergency service work they are all out there doing amazing work in their community.
"They are really community minded people who are making a difference every day."
Supt Waller said the region boasted a highly experienced team of permanent and retained firefighters.
"Recently we put on a technical rescue truck and they are going through a lot of advanced training. They are up-skilling their capability for the community here."
The NSW Rotary Emergency Services Community Awards grew from an annual event started by Rotary clubs in the Illawarra to recognise unwavering commitment to community safety.
The 2019 awards were presented in Bankstown on Friday night and Rotarian Dot Hennessy said as one of the two overall winners, Supt Waller goes on to represent the state in the first national RESCA awards in the second week of October.
"This Saturday night ACT run their awards," Mrs Hennessy said. "They will have two overall winners like we had and they will all go forward to be judged nationally.
"Tasmania is committed to join in next year and Western Australia are joining us on Saturday night in Canberra.
"So we are quietly confident we will have five of the seven states and territories on board for next year."