50 years on the front lines: RFS acknowledges John Sturgeon's contribution
Published Date: 07 Feb 2015
FOR 50 years, Orange farmer John Sturgeon has served the region as a member of the Rural Fire Service (RFS) and will be awarded the Australian Fire Service Medal for his efforts, announced as part of Australia Day celebrations.
By Alexandra King
The medal is one of the highest honours that can be bestowed upon a member of an Australian fire service, but for Mr Sturgeon the RFS is just another part of life.
"Fifty years ago, people on the land joined the local RFS brigade, it was what you did. 1960 was my first fire. My father was going out to the fire and asked if I wanted to go along so I did," he said.
FIRE IN HIS VEINS: John Sturgeon will be awarded the Australian Fire Service Medal for his 50 years of service to the Rural Fire Service. Photo: JUDE KEOGH
As a teenager he joined the Lidster brigade, under the guidance of his father, and has remained there since.
He was elected deputy captain in 1977 and stepped up to captain in 1982, a role he still holds.
"I'm still captain in name, but that's about it. I've stepped down a little and I've let the deputy captains take over," he said.
"In this district, you used to be able to count the number of farms on two hands. Nowadays most people out here live for the lifestyle. You could probably count the number of farms on one hand.
"It's hard to get people to join the RFS, because they come from town their instinct is 'oh the NSW firies are there', but out in the bush, we rely on the volunteers. We're getting there, but it's a slow process."
On top of his captain duties, he was elected as a group officer for RFS Canobolas Zone in 2001, and represents the interests of four brigades at meetings.
The recent construction of the Lake Canobolas station and the new Borenore station was one of the highlights of his RFS career.
"It was great to see the enthusiasm of members. In the past it was harder because the truck was in my shed or it was in your shed, and I think that put people off a little bit. It's great, with these new stations, to see people come and congregate and work together," he said.
Mr Sturgeon said he was surprised by the accolade and thanked his colleagues for the nomination.