Two CFA members have been awarded the Chief Officer’s Commendation for Courage for acts of bravery during an incident.
Left to right - Chief Officer Steve Warrington, Lt Rohan Piesley, Capt Kallista-The Patch Peter Toender, Capt Monbulk Simon Schroder and Dandenong SSO Daryl Owen. Photo courtesy: Uniform Photography.
Monbulk Fire Station hosted the award ceremony where CFA Chief Officer Steve Warrington acknowledged not only the efforts of two CFA firefighters, but the entire Monbulk and Kallista-The Patch Fire Brigades for their courageous efforts during a 2015 incident at The Patch.
District 13 Operations Officer Don Tomkins assisted the Chief with the award presentations. Don was the Incident Controller on the night and led the incident management right throughout this complex event.
During a storm on the evening of Saturday, 28 February 2015, a large gum tree fell on to a three storey timber home in The Patch.
The home was near complete collapse and, with several occupants inside the property, time was of the essence.
CFA, SES, Victoria Police and Ambulance Victoria worked together through trying conditions to rescue occupants including a grandfather who was isolated in an upstairs room and a five-year-old girl who was trapped on a lower level underneath heavy timber beams.
Senior Station Officer Daryl Owen (Dandenong) and 2nd Lieutenant Rohan Piesley (Monbulk) entered the property in search of occupants and discovered the young girl, who was pinned to the couch, almost entirely hidden from view, with only her right arm visible.
The pair worked through uncertain conditions and put themselves at great personal risk to rescue the young girl.
For their act of selflessness and bravery during dangerous conditions Daryl Owen and Rohan Piesley were acknowledged with the Chief Officer’s Commendation for Courage. Daryl and Rohan were the 16th and 17th recipients of this award.
Daryl who has been a career firefighter for over 22 years said he was quite surprised when he heard he would receive this commendation.
“I don’t do this work for formal recognition and I am honoured to receive this commendation,” Daryl said.
Daryl has undertaken many roles during his time with CFA including a stint as a structural instructor delivering technical rescue training across the state.
“The fact that I can make a difference to someone’s life, either directly with the skills as a rescuer, or indirectly as a trainer to enhance others skills to go on and make a difference, is very satisfying.”
Rohan Piesley joined CFA 13 years ago as a way to connect with his new town after their family shifted to Monbulk and like Daryl was surprised and humbled by the acknowledgement.
“This is not what you join for, you don’t do it for the awards- but it is an absolute honour to be recognised alongside my peers,” Rohan said.
“As a firefighter- it’s what you do. You don’t often think of the danger, you’re focussed on what you’re doing and in this instance it was focussing and getting this young girl out of danger.
Both Daryl and Rohan stressed that although they performed the role of extricating the young girl trapped inside the property, this could not have been done without the support of all attending emergency crews.
“We couldn’t have performed this rescue without the help of Jim Paxton from SES, who relayed information and passed in tools and equipment,” Daryl said.
“So many things happened that night; crews were battling a potential gas explosion and rescued the grandfather trapped on the roof. It was an incredible feat,” Rohan said.
Both Kallista-The Patch Fire Brigade and Monbulk Fire Brigade received the Chief Officer’s Commendation to Brigades for their professional leadership, skills and courage displayed during this incident.
Jim Paxton representing SES and Steve Kerekes representing Ambulance Victoria had already been recognised with the Chief Officer’s Commendation for the parts they played in the rescue.
Although firefighters were able to rescue a number of occupants, including the five-year-old-girl tragically her two-year-old brother did not survive.