Brian Edwards worked for nearly half a century fighting fires, work for which he has now been recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours.
Mr Edwards has received the Queen's Service Medal for services to the New Zealand Fire Service.
He said he was pleased to accept it for the service as well as his family.
"It was sort of a surprise, I wasn't expecting it."
But his family were proud of the recognition, he said.
Mr Edwards joined the Henderson Fire Brigade in 1963 before becoming an area manager in central Auckland as well as taking on fire safety programmes in lower socio-economic communities of refugees and immigrants.
He was also responsible for developing the fire safety and firefighting procedures in a number of Auckland buildings, including the Sky Tower and SkyCity casino.
Mr Edwards said a lot had changed with the service during the 49 years he was with it.
"In the last 20 or so years the Fire Service has become very proactive [in fire prevention].
"Now the whole emphasis is on preventing fires rather than just putting them out."
The 66-year-old retired last year from the service after it went through a restructure.