Australia — Huddled in her car as the property surrounding her burned, Steels Creek’s Carolyn Kelmar called Triple – 0 for help.
It was Black Saturday and as the flames closed in Ms Kelmar feared for her life.
Senior Constable Matt Henry and Sergeant Lee Nichols responded her call.
Despite being told the road was impassable due to the radiant heat, fallen trees, thick smoke and almost zero visibility, the two officers made their way to the property. They fought through extreme conditions to locate Ms Kelmar, who they found in shock, sheltering in her 4WD with her pet cat and some household items.
Soon after, the two officers returned to the area despite the extreme conditions they had just experienced to search for survivors and the injured in properties on Steels Creek Road.
These are just two of the eight officers who were officially recognised for their bravery on that fateful day.
Leading Senior Constable Peter Collyer, Senior Constable Andrew Walker, Senior Constable Ian Hamill, Senior Constable Matthew Henry, Senior Constable Cameron Caine, Leading Senior Constable Roger Wood, Sergeant Lee Nicholls and Leading Senior Constable Ken Dwight were awarded with Victoria Police Valour Awards at a graduation ceremony in Glen Waverley last Friday.
Chief Commissioner Simon Overland presented the awards and said that it was a privilege and a pleasure to be able to formally recognise the brave efforts of these members.
I am extremely proud to present the Valour Award to these eight officers for their enormous contribution to what became the state’s largest tragedy with over 173 lives lost, Mr Overland said.
The selfless bravery shown by these members, who courageously put the safety and lives of others before their own, reflect what true policing is about.
It is with great honour that their efforts are formally recognised today.
On Saturday 7 February, Leading Senior Constables Ian Hamill, Ken Dwight and Andrew Walker, and Senior Constable Peter Collyer risked their lives driving into the heart of Marysville to warn residents as the fire storm hit the town.
They located approximately 200 people taking refuge on Gallipoli Oval, the appointed fire refuge for the town.
The four police members immediately guided the residents out of the area to safety by convoy, through thick smoke and poor visibility.
The police members were at the rear of the convoy which eventually made it to Alexandra safely.
In Steels Creek, Senior Constable Matt Henry and Sergeant Lee Nichols responded to a call to assist Carolyn Kelmar, an elderly disabled lady, who was trapped by fire at her property.
On the same day, Leading Senior Constable Roger Wood and Senior Constable Cameron Caine located approximately 50 people seeking shelter at the Pheasant Creek store near Kinglake, as smoke and fire engulfed the area around them.
The two officers led the group in a convoy of cars to safety at the Kinglake West Fire Station as the fire storm roared towards the store.
It’s an event in Victoria’s history we will never forget, and I am very proud of the joint efforts of Victoria Police during such a tragic day.
Upon hearing news of their award, Carolyn Kelmar said the men had shown great courage. It was very brave what they did and I said so at the time, she said.
Everything was still burning when they came and they didn’t know what they were going to find when they came in.
I was greatly relieved when they came. They only had a ordinary car, just back packs with something to spray and caps with torches, not a lot of equipment very brave, she said.