The darkest day of Joe Murphy's career - which is coming to an end as he retires as ACT Rural Fire Service Chief Officer - was when a comrade from Canberra was killed fighting the Victorian bushfires just over 10 years ago.
David Balfour was crushed when a tree fell on his truck.
"We were very good friends and that was an intense night," Mr Murphy says as he looks back on three decades as a firefighter in Canberra.
In the turmoil and trauma of the time, he says he shed no tears.
It wasn't that he felt no pain, but that he knew he had to clear his head and focus on what needed to be done.
Reflecting today, he says has an ability to detach himself from emotion when a cool head is essential.
"I think it's something in me. I think I have a need to disconnect when you need to get the job done."
The task that night was to manage the feelings and needs of traumatised firefighters who knew their dead comrade.
As news of the death started seeping out back home in Canberra, the survivors were keen to call their loved ones to say that they were safe.
Mr Murphy was on the night shift in Victoria at the time, and so was sleeping through the day when Mr Balfour died. He remembers the grief, but also that he knew the situation had to be dealt with calmly and constructively.
Talking to him as he reflects on the highs and lows of his career, Mr Murphy comes across as a no-nonsense leader who, one imagines, would be like a rock in the swirl of tragedy.
He is forthright but not rude.
He ducks no questions, neither personal nor professional ones. He doesn't speak in euphemism or business jargon.
Some people at his level calculate every answer to blandness. Refreshingly, he does not.
Is he religious? "Not at all."
What will you do in retirement? "Lose 20 kilograms of gut."
Why haven't you married your long-time partner and the mother of your two children? "Marriage isn't the important thing. It's acting and feeling as a family that is important."
What book would you take to a desert island? "I wouldn't take a book. I would take a stack of Batman comics" - at which point he pulls out his phone with the Batman symbol on it.
There's no hand-wringing about the terrible things he's witnessed as one of the people the rest of us depute to clear up our worst tragedies and make safe our most dangerous threats.
Like every firefighter, I've seen things that nobody should see. But that's part of the job.ACT RFS Chief Officer Joe Murphy
He remembers some bad days in his three-decade-long career, but says he has an ability to deal with trauma. There are no demons under his bed at night. No nightmares.
"Like every firefighter, I've seen things that nobody should see. But that's part of the job," he says.
"I've seen lots of body parts - lots of people at their best and worst. You can't unsee things."
He has a protective mechanism. "I think I have a need to disconnect when I need to get the job done."
The fire service has counselling for firefighters after traumatic events. Mr Murphy says his way of dealing with trauma is relying on family and friends. He doesn't spill out emotion to them, but he knows where the support and the love lies.
His attitude is very matter-of-fact. He chooses the glass to be half full. "The other way is depressing and boring."
On his career: "I've loved it. The work's important. It's satisfying. It's who I am."
So why is he retiring in his 50s? "It's time for a little bit of me time, time for a new journey."
He wants to see more of Australia with his partner, Fiona.
He wants to cycle. "I want to ride my bike a lot more around Canberra. I want to get fit and strong and lose 20 kilograms and lose the gut."
He wants to row more with the Canberra Griffins Dragon Boat Club. "I want to do more of that. We train three times a week."
He will keep good memories - like when he and his comrades saved precious items from a fire.
"We've saved a couple of dogs in our time that were hidden deep in the house."
Another time, "there had been a big garage fire which had been caused by the car and we sprayed a lot of water", at which point the owner suddenly said that there were cherished photographs in the garage.
"We managed to recover them before they were damaged by heat and water."
He is particularly proud of a project he set up with a colleague, Barry Davis.
"Fire Ed" involves firefighters talking to kindergarten kids. "Barry and I put that into place and it's still going. I'm proud of it. It's fantastic."
Some things have changed in three decades. He's on record saying that global warming is raising demands on firefighters. "We are having to adapt and innovate the way we do fuel management to meet a changing climate," he says.
There have been less obvious changes, too. These days car accidents aren't always so gory because the people inside are better protected by safety devices and improved materials and designs.
In the old days, crash victims had to be cut out.
"We've gone from trying to extract the person from the car to dismantling the car around them," he says.
House fires are different, because of solar panels on roofs and more plastic which burns with a particularly toxic smoke. He said firefighters need to be more aware and observant before addressing house fires.
Mr Murphy has come a long way from working for the Health Insurance Commission, where he stamped out plastic Medicare cards by the thousand every day.
No. "I've never found my jobs dull. You make your own fun." It's all about the people around you, he says.
"I'll miss the people here," he says, referring to the Emergency Services Agency headquarters next to the airport.
No regrets. A glass more than half full.