Fire and Rescue NSW heroes recognised on St Florian’s Day - NSW

Published: 04 May 2023 01:44pm

Two firefighters who risked their lives when they entered a swollen river to save a teenage girl are among more than 120 people formally recognised by Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) this St Florian’s Day.

FRNSW on-call firefighters Gavin Bright and Justin Medcalf and their crew rushed to the Hunter River at Denman, in the state’s Upper Hunter, on 2 December 2022, after receiving reports of three children at risk of drowning.

When they arrived on-scene, the crew immediately located and secured two boys on a log.

Their friend, a 14-year-old girl, had become trapped against timber debris and was struggling to hold her head above water, about 18 metres from the riverbank.

Firefighter Medcalf kitted up in a harness, on rope, and fought against extreme currents as he swam out and released her foot from the root ball of a fallen tree.

Braving the same harsh conditions, Firefighter Bright followed his offsider into the water, fitting the distressed teenager with a rescue harness.

The pair stayed with the children until NSW SES in-water rescue specialists could retrieve them.

During a special event at the City of Sydney Fire Station today, FRNSW Commissioner Paul Baxter presented both firefighters with Commendations for Courageous Action, acknowledging their actions saved the teenage girl’s life.

Another 10 firefighters have been honoured for their response to a fatal house fire in Glendenning, in Sydney’s west, in June last year.

The incident, which occurred just three days into winter, tragically claimed the lives of a 74-year-old woman and her wheelchair-bound 77-year-old husband.

Through their courageous and selfless actions, the responding crews gave the victims their best chance of survival and treated them with dignity.

The firefighters from Blacktown, Mount Druitt and Regentville fire stations have been presented with Unit Commendations for Meritorious Service.

Fifteen firefighters have been recognised for saving the life of one of their colleagues who collapsed while battling a fire at Nowra, on the state’s South Coast.

FRNSW crews from the Berry, Nowra and Shoalhaven (South Nowra) fire stations were called to a house on Antares Close which was engulfed in flames, on 15 February 2022.

As heavy black smoke filled the property, Senior Firefighter Peter Bugden raised the alarm that a fellow firefighter had collapsed inside.

Station Officer Sean Doohan rushed into help, kicking in the lower part of a door and crawling in to reach his colleague in trouble.

He grabbed him by his legs and carried him out with the assistance of Senior Firefighter Bugden and Senior Firefighter Ben Ingle.

Between them, the three rescuers applied CPR and a defibrillator to the downed firefighter, with their care and concern continuing during his time recovering in hospital and at home.

Despite the distressing scenes, the other crews on scene remained focused on extinguishing the fire and minimising the impact to the community.

Others to receive St Florian’s Day awards include:

  • FRNSW firefighters from Katoomba who responded to major bushfires impacting the Blue Mountains in December 2019. Their extraordinary actions saved dozens of homes, factory units, sheds and vehicles.
  • FRNSW crews from Lismore and Goonellabah who battled a fire at St Carthage’s Cathedral in September 2020. Their outstanding efforts stopped the blaze from spreading throughout the century-old structure.
  • Multiple FRNSW crews who saved a person from a burning Parramatta unit in July last year, before preventing the fire from spreading throughout the complex.
  • A member of the public who rescued his elderly neighbour and her pet dog from their burning house on Glading Close, Lake Haven, in August 2022.
  • FRNSW brigade members from Beecroft and Riverwood who, on separate occasions, applied CPR and defibrillators to members of the public who suffered cardiac arrest outside their fire stations.

St Florian’s Day is named after the Patron Saint of firefighters and is traditionally the day FRNSW formally recognises staff who’ve played a special role in protecting our communities.

Minister for Emergency Services Jihad Dib said the firefighters receiving awards today have each put others’ lives before their own.

“The bravery, hard work and professionalism of our firefighters is extraordinary and whilst they don’t do it for the praise, they certainly deserve it and it’s great to see them receive that recognition on this special day,” Mr Dib said.

FRNSW Commissioner Paul Baxter congratulated all who have been formally recognised.

“When you hear about the incidents for which our people are being recognised, you get an appreciation for the difficult and traumatic situations they may have to confront on any given day,” Commissioner Baxter said.

_EDITOR'S NOTE: _Additional photos are available for download via the FRNSW website.

Updated: 04 May 2023 01:48pm

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