Black Saturday bravery medals awarded to Wimmera fire-fighters

ONE hundred and eighty-three Wimmera fire-fighters have been honoured for their service during the Black Saturday bushfires.

Members from the Ararat, Stawell and Westmere groups received the National Emergency Medal at ceremonies in Ararat on Monday and Tuesday nights.

Ararat group officer Max McLean said the number of medals being handed out indicated the significance of Black Saturday.

“There are about 4400 medals being distributed across the state, but it certainly doesn’t take away the prestige of the medal,” he said.

“It’s the second-highest honour you can get in the fire service behind the Australian Fire Medal.

“People who received the medals ranged from group officers and deputy group officers to brigade captains and fire-fighters.

"This medal means a lot to everyone who receives it.”

Mr McLean was sent to Kinglake West on Sunday February 8, 2009 with members of the Beaufort brigade.

He said many Ararat fire-fighters were sent to battle blazes at Alexandra in the Murrindindi Shire.

“When we get large fires like that we have composite crewing, so people from the different groups get sent out together,” he said.

“It was a team effort across the state. 

“No-one does this for medals, we do it to help people and to save properties and lives.”

Mr McLean has been involved in fire services for about 50 years.

He spent most of that time in and around the outskirts of Melbourne before retiring to the Wimmera.

“I was here for the Mt Lubra fire in 2006 and fought the Ash Wednesday bushfires as well,” Mr McLean said.

“As far as the devastation goes, Black Saturday was by far the worst.

“We lost 173 lives, including community members and fire-fighters, and so many properties were destroyed.”

Mr McLean said the recognition served as a timely reminder for Wimmera residents.

“We’re coming into another fire danger period and people need to get their properties cleared up,” he said.

“If we get conditions like we had on Black Saturday – we can control the fuel and we can control how we prepare but we can’t control the weather.

“People need to follow the advice of the CFA and prepare, act and survive.”

Eleven District 17 fire-fighters will receive the National Emergency Medal in 2014.

A power pole in Remlaw Road, Horsham, sparked a fire on Black Saturday, which destroyed 10 homes and Horsham Golf Club.

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