Strike Team 1304 was on its second last day of deployment, conducting back burning operations in the remote Kaloe Mountain Range near the Ramornie National Park, west of Grafton.
Minutes after lighting up a back burn on the steep and rugged terrain, John Kennedy of the NSW National Park and Wildlife Service, who was coordinating the efforts, fell to the ground.
Jess Jacobs from Upwey Brigade, and Luke Summerscales of Wonga Park Brigade were the first to rush to John’s side, performing CPR as other members of the strike team brought defibrillators from nearby tankers, set up a Mayday call and communication with 000, and helped shield the scene from dust and smoke with blankets.
The team continued the resuscitation efforts using multiple defibrillator devices as John’s pulse stopped and started, eventually breathing without assistance after 45 minutes.
“There was a lot going against him that day, being on the fire line and the environment we were in,” said Luke Summerscales.
“But there was also a lot going for him, with the right team, the right equipment, and the right training.”
Despite the arrival of the rescue helicopter, the steep terrain prevented it from landing, with the team waiting for an ambulance to arrive and transport him to an area where he was winched into the helicopter.
After recovering in hospital for two weeks, John has now thanked the strike team members who saved his life.
“I could be pushing up daisies now but I have so much life still to lead, a son to provide guidance to as he starts his life, and lots more adventures to have with my wife and friends,” he said.
“I have worked with volunteers over many years and I really appreciate the work they do, their self-less contribution to their community.
“It is this spirit and willingness to contribute to society that made Australia great and is sorely required in today’s society to keep Australia the lucky country.”
John and his family are now preparing to return to their home in Grafton, with hopes for a reunion in 2020 with the CFA members who saved his life.”
”Thank you to you and your team for helping me back on my feet - you had my back and I will always remember CFA Strike Team 1304 and the second chance they have given me.”