Dave Field has watched over the Lake Okareka community for 25 years.
The dedicated volunteer firefighter is hanging up his hat and heading overseas. He and his wife Brenda are visiting family in England and Wales for Christmas and plan to stay there to be closer to their families in Britain.
Mr Field was a founding member of the Lake Okareka volunteer rural fire brigade and spent much of that time as the chief fire officer. He stood down from that position in 2003 but has still remained instrumental in mentoring newcomers.
He said the fire brigade started shortly after he moved to the small community.
"There was a house fire and we didn't have any firefighters, so me and my next-door neighbour thought we had better do something about it."
They and a few more members of the community gathered their own equipment, including a water pump on a trailer stored in a neighbour's garage. An official station was later opened and a full crew established. Mr Field stood down from the chief's position when he thought it was time for a younger person to take over the role. From search and rescue missions to attending car crashes, Mr Field has seen it all in his years with the brigade.
He said living in a small community like Okareka meant dealing with people that you knew and saw often.
"The worst part is attending a motor vehicle accident and seeing someone you know is part of it. But at the same time, the worst can also bring out the best in people. I remember a house fire where people just rallied around and helped out, providing accommodation, clothes and support."
Mr Field said the comradeship of the volunteers would be something he would miss.
"You work together here on the rural side. You are always on call. People think that you just attend scrub and rubbish fires but you do everything. We don't work shifts and have to know how to do everything."
He said he was satisfied he was leaving the brigade in safe and capable hands.
Other members of the brigade farewelled Mr Field at their Christmas barbecue last night.