UPPER Hunter-raised Ben Swift was just 22 years old when he rescued three children from a burning car at a New Lambton petrol station.
The retained firefighter received a Commendation for Brave Conduct at an investiture ceremony at Government House in Sydney last Wednesday, nine years after the incident.
Mr Swift, originally from Scone, said the recognition for his actions was "very humbling".
"To be quite honest I was so overwhelmed I didn't hear anything. It was a nice feeling, I am very grateful for the award," the 32-year-old said.
"It was quite an honour to receive it today, being September 11, which is a significant day for any fireman."
Governor of New South Wales Margaret Beazley, who hosted the investiture ceremony, said all the honours acknowledged people who "not only excel in their professional and business lives but use those skills to be generous in the community".
"These achievements are by people who consider what they do is just part of their everyday life," she said. They all say to me, 'But I didn't expect this, it's just what I do.'"
Mr Swift also demonstrated that modesty, saying he was "just glad" he was at the petrol station on that December day in 2010 when the blaze erupted "before anything could have got worse".
At the time of the incident Mr Swift was a retained firefighter at New Lambton. He had a day off and went to the petrol station to refuel.
"My mate had gone into pay when all of a sudden there was screaming," Mr Swift told the Newcastle Herald.
"A gentleman was refueling a car and there must have been a hole in the fuel delivery. It had pooled underneath the car and the vapour exploded.
"The whole undercarriage of the car was on fire.
"Flames were coming up the doors."
Trapped in the back seat were two babies in booster seats and a four-year-old girl.
"I told everyone to run and get away. I ran to the extinguisher and approached the fire and began to try and fight what was going on from a safe distance. I managed to get it out after expelling a whole cylinder on it.
Mr Swift then directed the parents to retrieve the children, and pushed the car to a safe position in case it reignited.
"I remember the dad came over after and said, 'I'm so grateful, mate. I'd shake hands with you if I could'. But he couldn't because he had a baby in each arm."
Mr Swift joined the Rural Fire Service at the age of 15, and later served as a retained firefighter in Tea Gardens and multiple stations in Newcastle.
He received a full-time firefighting position with Fire and Rescue NSW in 2016 in Sydney's north, where he currently lives.