Retired Albion Park school teacher John Friedmann didn't recognise the man in the light moleskins and crisp, light blue shirt that approached him with an outstretched hand as he sipped his coffee during a break from the fire front at Wingello on Sunday.
He was obviously someone important: he had arrived with NSW RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers and there were a lot of cameras following them around.
He was also very clean - something highly unusual in the midst of an active fire ground.
Mr Friedmann, an RFS volunteer with 26 years under his belt, spent about five minutes talking to the stranger as the cameras filmed them.
The man thanked him for his service and told Mr Friedmann to look after himself before they bid farewell and the man moved towards other volunteers.
It was only when the Mercury struck up a conversation with Mr Friedmann and casually enquired what he and the NSW Emergency Services minister David Elliott had spoken about, that the penny dropped.
"Oh is he?" Mr Friedmann asked.
"I had no idea until you just told me."
Nevertheless, Mr Friedmann was complimentary of Mr Elliott's engagement with him and his fellow firefighters from the Jamberoo brigade.
"He asked about our welfare and how we were going," Mr Friedmann said.
"He told us to look after ourselves, thanked us for what we were doing and shook my hand."
It was a positive reception for the Baulkham Hills MP, who has been subject to heavy community criticism for travelling overseas on a family holiday to Europe during the state's worsening bushfire crisis.
On Friday he apologised for his decision, describing his absence as "inexcusable". "i should have put my RFS family first," he said.