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Heroes of Australias worst Natural Disaster

Updated on January 25, 2018
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A passionate lover of his native Australia, Peter loves to share with the world the wonders of this beautiful Country called Australia.

Thank you Heroes

To all of our Fire Fighting heroes a very big Thank You !
To all of our Fire Fighting heroes a very big Thank You !

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.

Thank You.

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

"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."

— Pilot of Elvis, Shawn Stavang

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 plows , and in his 16 years of fighting Wildfires he has never seen devastation 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.

Murrindindi Fire Inferno

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.


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 Country Fire Authority (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 organization, CFA brigades are strongly supported by their local communities in responding to meet Victoria's fire safety and emergency management needs.

More Heroes

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.

Two More Heroes

Tom Librieri and his wife Tess. Tom says he is no hero. We would disagree !
Tom Librieri and his wife Tess. Tom says he is no hero. We would disagree !

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 Wildfires.

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 volunteer 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"


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