ST John Ambulance area manager Joel Moore has been honoured with a bravery award for his role in the rescue of a woman caught in the Northcliffe bushfires.
The Kardinya resident was working as a special operations paramedic on February 4 last year when he was joined by two Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) fire fighters at the front of the fire line to assess buildings and infrastructure under threat from the approaching blaze.
The trio were aware of reports that some homeowners had decided to stay in the area in an attempt to salvage properties that were not considered defendable.
“Around dusk the wind speed picked up and the fire front began approaching the western end of the community,” Mr Moore said.
“We organised a rendezvous point with the other USAR recon teams that was supposed to be 10 kilometres in front of the fire.
“On arrival at the rendezvous point we found the fire had moved over 10km in less than 20 minutes,” he said.
As the wind strengthened, the team identified a property that was under threat.
With no fire suppression equipment, they called for back-up resources and met up with a Northcliffe resident who was heading to the property to try to get to his wife who was still there.
“The fire front was heading towards the house with speed by this stage,” Mr Moore said.
“We decided to assist with the rescue as we were not comfortable leaving the resident in a position of danger without exhausting all options.”
The advancing fire created a large wall on one side of the road as they attempted to access the property but the team eventually reached a paddock where the resident was waiting with her two dogs.
With everyone accounted for, the team drove from the paddock in front of the advancing fire and went to the incident command centre where they were assessed by paramedics and had their eyes flushed due to smoke exposure.
“During the entire rescue the hardest part was maintaining visibility, the smoke was very thick and it was impossible to see further than a couple of metres,” Mr Moore said.
“There was an intense heat coming from the fire on the side of the road and I kept thinking that the passenger window of the vehicle was going to shatter from the heat.
“The situation was very confronting and my heart rate was up the entire time. Having never been that close to such a large fire, I was grateful both of the fire fighters with me were very experienced. I trusted their judgement completely.”