Always a firefighter

HE retired as Albion Park Fire and Rescue's deputy captain last week, but Fred Refalo still has the firefighting bug.

Mr Refalo medically retired on Friday after 31 years of service - he started as a retained firefighter at the age of 27. He progressed to the position of engine cooper, maintaining the engines, and finally deputy captain, where he served for the past 10 years.

"When I first joined, I didn't know much about the fire brigade, but I wanted to help the community," Mr Refalo said.

His service record included bushfires at Thredbo and Picton, but his most intense experience came when he served as a team leader in Marysville during the Victorian bushfires. Mr Refalo oversaw containment line building and maintenance.

"It was pretty horrendous."

On another occasion, he helped a dog who had been overcome by fumes in a drug fire.

"We had to give him oxygen, but he was OK after that."

Mr Refalo said interaction with the public was the best part of the job.

"Even with the other brigades, the interaction of working together has been great," he said.

"We've been doing combined training with the Rural Fire Service - in the past, that didn't happen as much."

He also organised emergency services registrations for the annual Camp Quality Convoy and was nominated for the Pride of the Illawarra Awards in 2012.

But Mr Refalo has no intention to hang up the helmet and overalls yet - although they will be a different colour from now on.

"I've already joined the Oak Flats Rural Fire Service; I don't want to get out completely," he said.

Mr Refalo thanked Fire and Rescue Albion Park and his family, saying his home life had suffered a little during the course of his career.

"You could get a call and be gone for two days. It's just the nature of the beast."

The 58-year-old also works as a supervisor for BlueScope Steel, but he also has plans to go on a world cruise with his wife and spend more time with his three daughters and two grandchildren.

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