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Nursing home hero honoured with bravery award

Published: 22nd November 2009

A nursing home director this week (Thursday November 19) received the NSW Fire Brigades' highest civilian award for her courage in saving the lives of elderly residents in a nursing home fire in Kensington earlier this year.

A NSW Fire Brigade Commissioner's Commendation has been presented to Ms Penny Prior, who sprang into action when a fire started in the utility room of Castellorizian Aged Care Centre in May.

Emergency Services Minister Steve Whan said Ms Prior, the Centre's Director of Care, was alerted to the fire when she saw lights flicker off in the building’s reception area and heard a screeching smoke alarm.

"Ms Prior raced to the scene of the fire, which had started in a utility room, sending toxic smoke spiralling through the rest of the home towards elderly and vulnerable residents," Mr Whan said. 

"In a display of great courage, she used a fire extinguisher to douse the flames as the fire began to rapidly spread.

"When faced with this frightening and life-threatening situation, she showed enormous determination to protect the centre's aged residents, putting herself at risk in the process.

"I congratulate her for not only her bravery but also her commitment to the wellbeing of all the residents in her care."

Randwick firefighters arrived a few minutes later to fully extinguish the blaze, confining it to its point of origin.

NSWFB Commissioner Greg Mullins paid tribute to Ms Prior's professionalism and dedication to protecting the nursing home's frail and elderly residents.

"It was only Ms Prior's selfless actions that protected the residents that day. She displayed exceptional courage in extinguishing the fire while confronted with intense smoke, heat and flames," he said.

"It takes enormous courage to battle a fire without firefighting equipment or protective gear and she is very deserving of this recognition, the highest that the Fire Brigades can bestow on a member of the public."