Recognised for their courage

Four members of the Cape Clear Fire Brigade have been awarded the Chief Officer’s Unit Citation for Courage after saving a man’s life while fighting a fast-moving grassfire in November 2014.

Brigade members Donald Coward, Neil Shiells, Jim McKay and John McNabb received the award at a lunch with CFA District 15 operations manager Brett Boatman and Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley last week.

COURAGE: (L-R) Captain Michael Rowe, CFA District 15 operations manager Brett Boatman and recipients Donald Coward, John McNabb, Neil Shiells and Jim McKay, and Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley.
COURAGE: (L-R) Captain Michael Rowe, CFA District 15 operations manager Brett Boatman and recipients Donald Coward, John McNabb, Neil Shiells and Jim McKay, and Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley.

Cape Clear Brigade Captain Michael Rowe said when the brigade members arrived at the scene of the fire in Berringa, they found an elderly man slumped by the fence of his property.

“Don put a blanket over him and used it like a shield and then he and John poured cold bottles of water on him,” Captain Rowe said.

“Neil and Jim were on the truck, they suppressed the fire as much as they could around them. Sixty foot pine trees were on fire, there were burning sheds and exploding cars… it was like a war zone.”

He said the heat was so bad that the members of the brigade were close to collapsing in the conditions as they tried to keep each other alive. They stayed under the blanket for about one and a half hours until the ambulance arrived. The fire was suppressed and the man was airlifted to hospital.

“They don’t feel they were doing anything special,” Captain Rowe said. “They just feel they were doing what they were trained to do but they were way above that.”  “It’s going beyond courage, to see acts like that is pretty amazing. They are just fantastic people and great humanitarians.”

The award was kept tightly under wraps right up until the presentation, with the recipients completely unaware and only three members of the brigade informed.

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