Heroes of Australias worst Natural Disaster

Emerging Heroes

I decided to write this Hub because there are many stories now emerging from this tragedy about the heroism displayed by many people. I think these stories need to be told.

When I began going through the different stories I realised that we will not hear some of the real stories of heroism.

We will not hear how brave some people were because their act of bravery was not able to be completed to a satisfactory outcome, and both parties paid the ultimate sacrifice. With their lives.

With that in mind I would like to dedicate this Hub to the people who lost their lives trying to save others in the worst natural disaster in Australia's history.

In this Hub I will be presenting to you stories as I find them, not in any order, as all the personal fighting these fires are Heroes of the highest order, and without them I have not doubt that this disaster would have been worse.

I am also sure that due to the magnitude of the fires I will not hear all of the story relating to Heroism, so I ask for your help to please feel free to post links in your comments of any stories you feel should be included in the Hub.

Thankyou. ag

Air crane picks up another load of water
Air crane picks up another load of water
The air crane coming to the rescue at Narre Warren South
The air crane coming to the rescue at Narre Warren South

Elvis is alive and well

I do not have any doubt whatsoever that if "Elvis" and many other helicopters where not around during these fires the death toll would have been much higher than the current 181.

The pilots of these aircraft should not go unrewarded for the bravery.

The pilot of Elvis, Shawn Stavang says in his off times he likes skiing on Lake Tahoe and driving snow ploughs , and in his 16 years of fighting bushfires he has never seen devistation on a scale such as this. He added:-

"On Saturday it didn't matter how many aircraft you had, there were just too many fires. I don't know how they all got started they were just everywhere."

 Shawn's workload:-

  • 12 hour days
  • living on sandwiches on breaks while picks up fuel in minutes.
  • Refills Elvis's huge water tanks from nearby dams and ponds around 30 times each day.
  • flying 150 metres above the ground
  • He  has to avoid hitting people defending their properties, with the 9 tonnes of water he drops.
  • He has to navigate his way around through smoke to avoid ,power lines and pylons, and other aircraft.
  • It is hard to  image the amount of pressure this man is working under.



Ready!
Ready!
Sean O'Toole reckons he owes the DSE Firefighters a beer or three for protecting them in the bushfires at Murrindindi.
Sean O'Toole reckons he owes the DSE Firefighters a beer or three for protecting them in the bushfires at Murrindindi.

CFA

Virtually all of the fire fighters you see are not getting paid for putting their lives on the line.

Here is a quick version of what makes up the CFA.

The Country Fire Authority or known lovingly as the CFA is one of the world’s largest volunteer-based emergency services.

There are around 58,000 volunteer members supported by over 400 career fire fighters and officers and more than 700 career support and administrative staff.

Situated in Victoria, there are 2.5 million people and 150,182 square kilometres of land in the CFA area. This area includes more than 980,000 homes, and covers all of rural Victoria, and the provincial cities and towns (except State forests and National Parks).

The area also includes more than a million residents in outer Melbourne suburbs such as Frankston and Dandenong, and key growth suburbs such as Cranbourne, Melton and Werribee.

CFA divide the land covered into nine CFA Areas and 20 Regions. Across these Areas there are over 1200 CFA brigades across the state and they carry out a wide range of duties.

Our brigades respond to a range of different incidents and our broader activities include community education and fire investigation.

The ties between CFA and state government, local government, industry and brigades are essential to the successful operation of CFA. As a community service organisation, CFA brigades are strongly supported by their local communities in responding to meet Victoria's fire safety and emergency management needs.

Peter Thorneycroft

Peter Thorneycroft, who almost single-handedly saved 20 women and children sheltering in Kinglake's National Park Hotel.

Despite constant pain from a serious arm injury, Mr Thorneycroft, 43, climbed onto the roof in shorts and thongs as the blaze dropped deadly embers.

He fought them off with buckets of water handed up by brave locals.

Karl Atmatnieks

Karl and his wife Jane were fleeing the Kinglake inferno when he saw a family of five trapped in a car.

They stopped as the flames bore down and pulled the family into their car.

Karl said afterwards. "Anyone in the same situation would have done the same thing."

Neither of these men regard themselves as Heroes.


Mystery Policeman

Families who escaped the Marysville inferno with seconds to spare want to thank a mystery policeman who saved 200 lives.

They say the unknown police officer ordered people gathered on the football oval to flee moments before fire destroyed their town last Saturday.

Marysville gardener and State Emergency Service volunteer Mark Peart reckons the brave cop is his town's "unsung hero".

"That policeman saved about 200 people on the oval that day," Mr Peart, who fled the oval with his wife and children as his family home burned to the ground, said.

"So I'd like to thank him. He hasn't had any accolades, but I noticed his bravery and I've been singing the bloke's praises ever since."

Mother-of-five Kerry McFadzean also owes her life to the same officer.

Mrs McFadzean, husband Glenn and children Daniel, 7, Jonathon, 14, and Stephen, 17, followed the policeman's orders and left town.

"That police officer saved all of those lives," she said.

"We put our lives in his hands and he saved our family. As we were leaving town, it looked like somebody had turned the lights out. Things were exploding all around us."

Like most Marysville residents, the McFadzeans lost their home.

"The home can be replaced . . . the worst thing is losing several close friends. My kids have lost friends too," Mrs McFadzean said.

"It's been a nightmare, but I feel very blessed that I've got my children. If this was done on purpose, we can't let that person get to us. We have to rebuild the town."

The Pearts have also lost many close friends, including their daughters' school friends.

"We honestly thought we had half a chance in our cars on the oval," he said.

"But we had no chance if we'd stayed. The CFA did the best they could, but even if they had 100 trucks they didn't have a hope.

"We're just thankful that we're alive and the kids are healthy."

an update on this story:-

It has now been established that it was in fact 4 policemen who led all these lucky people out through the fires.

Well done guys.

Tom Librieri and his wife Tess. Tom says he is no hero
Tom Librieri and his wife Tess. Tom says he is no hero

Thomas Librieri and his wife Tess and Family

After battling the wildfires and saving his family, neighbours and his own lives, Victoria's bush-fires have been devastating, but Thomas Librieri refuses to give in.

At Kinglake, one of the worst hit areas, Thomas Librieri is one person determined to make a difference to those affected by Victoria's tragic bushfires.

The father of five has worked around the clock to help those left with nothing - and he's still going.

Thomas and his family have invited at least 5 other families into his home to feed and comfort them.

"I'm just a normal bloke just trying to do what i can for my neighbours. We've got people who haven't got houses, so if we can give them something temporarily then I'm happy with that. I've done my little bit," says Tom.

Already Thomas, a local builder, has rounded up truckloads of donations, including generators, food and clothes.

Delivering donations straight to those who need them most, he's even opened up his own house to families without one - and his enthusiasm is catching.

Alan Pickersgill, from Ballarat ,like thousands of others, answered Thomas' call for help. Alan delivered a caravan , which previously sat unused in his yard, is now set to become someone's home.

"The caravan was up at home not doing anything, and I found out Thomas was looking for vans, so I brought it down," says Alan.

Loaded with food, the caravan makes up a double bed and two single beds and has an annex large enough to accommodate another.

Since the fires destroyed his community nine days ago, Thomas has been determined to keep the town's spirit alive.

"This is bigger than me, this is bigger than anything we have had to handle," says Thomas.

The enormity of what he's already done and the task ahead are both immeasurable.

"They are telling me there are six hundred houses gone in Kinglake. Well that's six hundred caravans I reckon we need because I don't know where they are going to put six hundred families," says Thomas.

Down the road from Thomas' house, Jemima Richards is also working hard to restore Kinglake. Jemima has set up her own relief centre and has already amassed eight shipping containers worth of donations.

Jemima is seems in awe of the impact Thomas has had.

"I tell you what's made a difference. I've had people calling me today who have registered to volutneer that have offered help, accommodation, to get caravans up here," says Jemima.

"They're seeing Thomas on Today Tonight - they've rung Channel 7 - they've got his number and he's telling them to call me. I've got two phones going."

For Thomas, it is important that people affected by the fires are able stay on their land.

"We've got the generators, we've got the caravans coming. We have got to keep our community together. Our community has to stay together because if that doesn't happen it's all going to go to pieces."

Many would quickly describe Thomas as a hero for the work he is doing to help the people of Kinglake, but he won't hear of it.

"People keep throwing that hero word around. I'm just a bloke who lives in the country looking after his neighbours and that's what everybody is doing," says Thomas.

Thomas and his wife Tess have lost friends in the deadly fires, close to fifty, but they have put their needs on hold to make sure others are held together.

Thomas refuses to show his grief in public, determined to see his work through to the end.

"I've had a few moments, private ones, don't let anyone see it, but i have had those moments. We've had a few inconsolable moments, but i can't let other people see that," says Thomas.

I have watched this man and his family on TV and in my eyes this man and family are not only heroes you can add the word "angels"

More by this Author


Comments 33 comments

Sufidreamer profile image

Sufidreamer 7 years ago from Sparti, Greece

I salute them all, and the hundreds of other unsung heroes. Deeds like those restore your faith in human nature.


goldentoad profile image

goldentoad 7 years ago from Free and running....

Still a terrible tragedy, a reminder that in the end nothing matters but each other and that we still have the abilities to sacrifice ourselves for the the bigger picture.


einron profile image

einron 7 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, CANADA

A vote of thanks for the unsung heroes of the bush fires. May God bless them for the bravery in their service to their fellowmen.


G-Ma Johnson profile image

G-Ma Johnson 7 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

Without these super brave souls what would we do...and is nice you made this tribute to them...proves what a nice person you are...Thanks...G-Ma :O) Hugs & Prayers


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America

Thanks for posting this and letting us see the humanitarian efforts and heroes. And that some people/wildlife are being saved from painful death. Your fire heroes rank with ours that were effective in 9/11 and Katrina and I will remember them together. Prayers are up and away.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

Ag, it just goes to show that extreme circumstances often bring out the best in people. I'm sure there are many more stories still to emerge. Thanks for posting, and I'm glad you're still ok, and have escaped the worst of it.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 7 years ago from Australia Author

Sufidreamer, goldentoad, einron, G-Ma J, Patty , Amanda.

Thank you all for your kind comments!


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

People can really make a difference - and these have.


The Old Firm profile image

The Old Firm 7 years ago from Waikato/Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand

ag. I have difficulty wording a reply. At times like this it's the ordinary people who do the extraordinary feats of bravery. Thank you for pointing this out.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 7 years ago from Australia Author

LondonGirl and The Old Firm

Exactly!!!!


packerpack profile image

packerpack 7 years ago from India, Calcutta

I have not seen or experienced any wild fire like it happened in Australia but I can very well understand how devastating it would have been. Hats off to the Heroes and my deepest sympathy to the life that has been lost.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 7 years ago from Australia Author

paperpack, thank you for your comment!


ajcor profile image

ajcor 7 years ago from NSW. Australia

Our heroes are the best without doubt! and the stories are just begining...thanks for this hub of tribute - keep adding ...cheers


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 7 years ago from Australia Author

aj, thanks mate will do !


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

agvulpes, Yours is a wonderfully and typically Australian response.I am proud to know you and proud of the manly way you show the pain you feel. With you it is always real as you are. Congratulations on a necessay and worthwhile tribute hub.


ameliehub profile image

ameliehub 7 years ago from UK

its horrible. really these are the real heroes of life. Your post pays a tribute to these heroes and bring their hard work in light.


gwendymom profile image

gwendymom 7 years ago from Oklahoma

Ag, Great hub!! I love that you published this and are singing praises to these heroes. They deserve it.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 7 years ago from Australia Author

ameliehub and gwendymom, thanks, these men and women are still , what is it now, about 12 days , out there fighting the fight to keep us out of harms way.

 


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 7 years ago from Australia Author

Another Hero added:-Thomas Librieri and his wife Tess and Family


gracy.bonsu profile image

gracy.bonsu 7 years ago from United Kingdom

Thanks for posting this and letting us see the humanitarian efforts and heroes.


mulder profile image

mulder 7 years ago from Warnbro Western Australia

fantastic Hub and well done You have done these heroes proud agvulpes .


trooper22 profile image

trooper22 7 years ago from Chicago

What a wonderful tribute to true valor.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 7 years ago from Australia Author

Trooper thanks for your warm comment. I was concerned that my tribute would not be good enough. Much more could have been written, and many brave act were not recorded.

I don't know what my reaction would have been , place in the same circumstances,?


Kangaroo_Jase profile image

Kangaroo_Jase 6 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

agvulpes, this is an awesome hub, and I say this as a highly biased Melbournite as well. I was a bystander of the 1992 Sydney fires, and only by the sheer luck of the Georges River did I escape losing my home at the time. All I could think of to do at the time was help out all of my neighbors who did lose their homes. Food, water, clothes, anything.

All of us experienced, tragedy, shock, horror, and found it very hard to grasp and get our heads around THE worst natural disaster in Australia's history.

Having said that, although its most often in times of tragedy, nothing pulls Australians together until something like this happens.

Very pleased you have laid out a great tribute here for all those unsung heroes as I sincerely hope all who read this gain some insight and learn from this.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 6 years ago from Australia Author

Kangaroo_Jase, what can I say? Thank you for a great comment! I had family very, very close to the fires in Sydney in 92 and we were glued to live coverage on Foxtel. Fortunately they were not touched by the fires, but subsequently did sell up and move to a not so vulnerable area!

As you probably know the results of the Royal Commission are still awaited and hopefully much will come from the findings. Friends of ours that where burnt out in Gippsland have just recently moved into their rebuilt house and life is gradually returning to some form of normality.

I hope that the royal commission in some way acknowledges the fact that there were heroes of Australia's worst natural disaster.


ross670daw profile image

ross670daw 6 years ago

I am really glad I am following you agvulpes, this is a great tribute to all those Aussie heroes and to the fallen, I sincerely hope the government implements all of the royal commissions recommendations, and ensures this does not happen again.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 6 years ago from Australia Author

ross hi mate :-) I agree with you about the Royal Commission but I see already that the Government is backing away from some of their promises.

As sure as night follows day we will always have Bushfires it is just a matter of how they are handled. Just today there was an announcement of a you beaut computer modeling program to allow the fire staff a way of tracking the path of a fire. I believe it would have been next to useless on Black Saturday!

If it weren't for the Heroes on the ground it would have been a lot worse!

Thanks for dropping by :-)


ross670daw profile image

ross670daw 6 years ago

Typical bureaucracy, hard to understand, especially with a state election coming up, you'd expect more. I saw that report about the new comp.program, I guess any technological improvements in that area might assist with better outcomes in the future, we can only hope. Yes, I agree those heroic men and women are owed a great debt of gratitude.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 6 years ago from Australia Author

Ross thanks for the follow up. I noticed that the Premier announced some more Prevention measures today. Too much to put in here but I did one negative and that is that the electricity wires will not go underground. These are what started the main fire that burnt out Marysville.


ChloeP profile image

ChloeP 6 years ago

What a fantastic hub. A great tribute to all involved.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 6 years ago from Australia Author

Thanks for taking the time to read and leave the nice comment:-)


niteshbasnet1978@yahoo.co.in 5 years ago

Salute to the real heroes.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 5 years ago from Australia Author

I certainly agree and so does our Prime Minister. Today Australia Day 26-01-2011 she announced that all of our heroes will receive a special Heroes Medal. The first awards will be Australia day 2012. Details still to come!

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