ANDREW Stark from Bermagui has been awarded the Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM) as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
The AFSM is recognition of an individual’s contribution to the community as a volunteer or paid firefighter, and there are only a limited number awarded to each state and territory each year.
“It’s an honour,” Mr Stark said.
Mr Stark said he has been involved in fire brigades in a lot of different places - wherever his chosen career has taken him.
In 1989, he joined the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) as a member of the Warringah Headquarters Brigade, where he occupied a number of leadership roles.
He became an ambulance officer, as well as volunteering his time in the fire service.
Mr Stark found being an ambulance officer as well as a firefighter very rewarding, and he has found the skills learnt from both occupations overlap.
In 2003, Mr Stark had a career change and moved to Bega to take a full-time position as Inspector (Operations) in the Bega Valley with the RFS.
Soon after his move, he was promoted to superintendent Far South Coast, which meant he oversaw some of the most bushfire-prone areas in South East NSW.
He has led Incident Management Teams for bushfire emergencies throughout NSW, and assisted on Kangaroo Island in 2007 and Victoria in 2009.
Mr Stark has been chief officer of the ACT RFS since 2009, which he describes as being a “very exciting time”.
“I’ve been involved in rural firefighting for more than half my life,” he said.
“Now I have a fantastic opportunity to work as a chief officer in the ACT.”
Challenges continue to be placed in front of him, such as the way the fire season comes quicker every year.
As a representative of different committees, he has engaged with strategic bodies such as the Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Council, providing input into issues affecting the fire service community.
Later in the year, Mr Stark will be invited to Government House to receive his award, along with others who receive a range of honours.
“It’s always a very special day,” he said.
He has nominated a number of RFS members from the Bega Valley for the AFSM in the past, and he said it felt good to be on the receiving end of a nomination this year.