Four CFA firefighters who courageously handled being confronted by an armed offender while responding to a fire have been honoured with a Group Bravery Citation as part of the Australian Bravery Awards.
Senior Station Officer Roy Griffiths, Leading Firefighter Francisco Grech, Firefighters Matthew Kent and Brendan Edwards, who were members of a District 14 brigade, have been recognised for their extraordinary actions at a dangerous fire late at night on Sunday, 30 August 2015, when they responded to support the MFB in Meadow Heights.
Award recipient, SSO Griffiths, said during the firefighting operation crews were confronted by an armed man who had set a house and several vehicles alight.
“It was a series of events that started with a car fire, then a house fire down the road,” SSO Griffiths said.
“I was observing the scene when I spotted somebody coming towards us from up the road in a threatening manner with an axe and a jerry can.
“We withdrew our crews to what we thought was a safe place to the rear of the fire trucks, but the offender then set fire to the MFB truck.”
SSO Griffiths then enlisted FF Kent’s help in using the high pressure hose to extinguish the fire in the cabin of the fire truck before the offender returned.
They then attempted to use the hose to try to stop the armed man, but were unsuccessful and were forced into a “rapid retreat”.
“The armed offender gave chase, took a swing at FF Kent which caused him to trip over as all the crew escaped in different directions.”
The situation was made more difficult due to the lack of visibility at night. SSO Griffiths described it as “pitch black and chaotic”.
Crew members had all safely withdrawn from immediate danger, however when police arrived on scene the offender was out of sight.
“Our crews helped locate the offender by using a thermal camera which assisted police with locating him swiftly and were able to apprehend him,” SSO Griffiths said.
“A further two cars had been set alight as well as the house and we had minimal crews at the incidents, though fortunately there were no occupants inside.”
SSO Griffiths said the group was only doing their job to protect life and property.
“It was an intense situation that could have ended a number of different ways, but the sound judgement demonstrated by all crew members on scene led to a positive result at the end of the incident,” he said.
“A good crew leader and incident controller learns that you need to be able to stand back and observe what’s happening around you while at a fire or incident.
“This enables them to see any threats before it is too late. It’s something that all emergency services personnel should keep in mind.”