Brave rescues


26 February 2007

published by

Australia — Two courageous rescue efforts under threat from a wildfire inStawell last summer have earned nine Wimmera volunteers state bravery awards.

Nine Stawell State Emergency Service members defied a fierce wildfire onDecember 31, 2005, to rescue two men stranded in different mineshafts.

Police and Emergency Services Minister Bob Cameron described the actions ofthe volunteers as heroic during a presentation ceremony in Melbourne yesterday.

“I want to acknowledge the nine brave men and women who faced ferociouswildfire to rescue two men who required urgent assistance,” Mr Cameron said.

Five volunteers rescued 80-year-old Tom Cooper from a seven metre mineshafton a property near Stawell.

As fire threatened the area they lowered Stawell SES volunteer Leigh Craiginto the mine shaft and lifted Mr Cooper to safety.

Around the same time, CFA volunteer Cameron Austin fell 25 metres down adifferent mineshaft while fighting the bushfire.

Three SES volunteers lowered Stawell SES member Gary Raeburn beneath theground as CFA crews kept flames at bay on the surface.

Mr Raeburn remembers the dark summer night vividly.

“That rescue sticks out in my mind. There were firefighters all aroundthe mineshaft with hoses to make sure things were under control up there and Iwas concentrating on making sure Cameron was alright,” he said.

“At the time you don’t think about what’s going on, you just do the job.It’s when you look back you realise it’s pretty incredible.”

Mr Craig said the rescue was a unique way to bring in a new year.

“When I got down to Mr Cooper and made sure he was OK the clock tickedover to midnight. I shook his hand and wished him a happy new year,” hesaid.

All nine Stawell SES members who helped in the rescues received BraveryCertificates from Minister Cameron at the 19th annual VICSES State Awardsceremony in Melbourne yesterday.

“These rescue teams confronted dangerous wildfire on a dark summer’snight and successfully managed two underground disasters,” Mr Cameron said.

But Mr Craig and Mr Raeburn say they were simply doing their job.

“It’s definitely an honour to get an award but you join the SES knowingyou’ll be involved in these sorts of situations,” Mr Craig said.

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