Local Rural Fire Service (RFS) member Alice Strutt has been rewarded for her tireless work over the past 40 years with a prestigious honour - a Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM).
The medal is awarded to those who show outstanding service to the NSW RFS and Fire and Rescue NSW.
Alice joined the RFS with the Temagog Brigade in 1981 and since that time she has served in a range of roles including as Deputy Captain in 1994 and Senior Deputy Captain in 1997.
When Alice joined the RFS, it was unusual for women to be out on the ground fighting fires. Alice wasn't satisfied with just providing a support role to local brigades, and so she proved her ability as a frontline firefighter.
"It was groundbreaking for other women in the RFS," Alice told the Argus.
"The fire doesn't know whether you're male or female and that's what I thought when I was out fighting fires."
In 1990 Alice was one of the first women on the coast to complete the basic firefighter training course and she later became a trainer herself.
Alice has attended numerous bush and house fires over the years, along with motor vehicle accidents on the challenging Kempsey-Armidale Road.
"The fires in 1994 and 2001 are ones that stand out to me, they were horrendous," Alice said.
In 2008 she joined the Lower North Coast Communications Brigade, and was Brigade Captain up until 2020.
She is also the founding member of the Lower North Coast Aviation Brigade.
However, it was Alice's role in communications that saw her deployed to many major fire events across the state.
She has also assisted the SES with communications during times of flood in the Kempsey area.
Additionally, she has contributed to community engagement, assisting many of the smaller communities and schools in the upper Macleay region.
"Speaking with school children about the RFS has been the highlight for me over the years," Alice said.
During the recent 2019 Black Summer Bushfires, Alice stayed on shift all night with the Communications Brigade as the Carrai East fire was impacting the town of Willawarrin and surrounding areas.
Alice has dealt with a number of bushfires during her 40 years with the RFS, but none have hit home like the Carrai East Bushfire did.
The fire threatened Alice's property when it jumped the Armidale Rd on November 15, 2019. Alice's home was saved, however all of her fences were destroyed.
She continues her work with the RFS as a radio and Communication Brigade operator and said it was a nice surprise to be awarded a AFSM.
"I was shocked to begin with because I usually go under the radar, but I'm very honoured," she said.
Alice has provided exceptional dedication to the local community with 40 years of service to the NSW RFS and she has proven to be an effective ambassador for all female firefighters.