Black Saturday efforts result in medal honour

Black Saturday efforts result in medal honour

20 January 2012

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Australia — BENDIGO police officer Todd Deary is set to receive the prestigious National Emergency Medal for his work during the Black Saturday bushfires.

Leading Senior Constable Deary will be given his medal by Prime Minister Julia Gillard at a special ceremony on Australia Day.

This is the first year the National Emergency Medal will be awarded.

It was established by the Queen to recognise those involved in the emergency response to the Black Saturday bushfires, the Queensland floods and Cyclone Yasi.

Leading Senior Constable Deary only received the invitation yesterday morning and said he was still in shock from it all.

“You could have knocked me over with a feather,” he laughed.

He doesn’t know who nominated him for the award, and admitted the whole of Black Saturday was still a bit of a blur for him.

The Bendigo fire burnt 500 hectares of land to the west of the city, destroyed more than 60 homes and claimed the life of a Long Gully man.

“I was actually the first one on the scene,” Leading Senior Constable Deary said.

“It originally got reported by a member of the public and I was already in the area.

“I could actually see what they were talking about in Bracewell Street and then by the time I got to Golf Links Road it was like it had followed me there it was so fast.”

That was at 4.30pm.

Leading Senior Constable Deary spent the rest of the day and night getting people to evacuate, cordoning off the fire zone and making sure no one tried to get through.

“It was just chaotic,” he said.

“I remember helping a few people, but it happened so quickly that I don’t even remember the specifics of it.

“I can remember just going from one thing to the other.”

Leading Senior Constable Deary said he knew the fire was going to be bad from the start.

“I knew we were in strife because the fire units had been called down south to Metcalfe. I didn’t think we had the resources to control it,” he said.

“The hardest bit was stopping the people from going in because if they had gone in they would have never come out.

“I also had to stop the rubbernecks coming in trying to have a look. They were coming up from as far as Strathfieldsaye. It was just bizarre the behaviour of some people.”

Leading Senior Constable Deary said he was chuffed to have his efforts recognised, but didn’t want to be singled out.

“I’m chuffed to get the award, but there were some people on the day who did exactly what I did. At the end of the day it was a team effort,” he said.

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