An Australian man hailed a hero for risking his life to save his neighbours’ homes from deadly bushfires has tearfully said he did something “really, really stupid”.
Tales of heroism, incredible escapes and the trauma of being caught in the path of merciless blazes have been emerging in Australia.
One man struggled to choke back his emotion as he told Sky News that he regretted staying to face the flames. A woman has described how her horse saved her life by leading her on a terrifying journey through smoke and embers, and those rescued from blazes surrounding them on a beach on New Year’s Eve have started telling their stories of escape.
Image: Robert Murray (front) described Mark Walker (back) as a ‘good neighbour’ for saving his home in Conjola Park
In Conjola Park on the New South Wales coast, a blaze swept through the town destroying dozens of homes.
Unlike most, Mark Walker chose not to flee the area and instead decided to do all he could to fight the bushfire and protect his home and his neighbours’ properties.
Asked by Sky’s Jonathan Samuels if he regretted staying behind, he replied: “Yeah, I regret staying. Of course I do.
“I get up every morning,” he said, fighting back tears. “And I’m overwhelmed every morning with what’s happened.”
More from Australia Bushfires
“I’m just in disbelief, you know, because I lived.
“And everybody says to me ‘you’re a hero, you saved our house. and you did this’, and I don’t feel like that.
“I did something really, really stupid. I stayed.”
View from above shows severity of fires
Robert Murray left the area and on his return described Mr Walker’s actions as those of a “good neighbour”.
But with officials forecasting the bushfires to continue for months, Mr Walker’s advice to people whose neighbourhoods lie in the path of the flames is: “Go. Just get in the car and go. You know it’s coming… and there is no escaping it.
“Unless you are standing here in the middle of the road where there is nothing around you for 100m, you are totally vulnerable.”
One man said he knew of a person who had been preparing for weeks to save his home by removing gas cylinders, moving outdoor furniture away from the house and using his garden hose to soak the surrounding lawn and fill rubbish bins with water to knock over when the fire approached.
Image: Many homes in Conjola Park on the New South Wales south coast were destroyed by the bushfires
One fire on Kangaroo Island, which has killed two people, has broken containment lines and been described as
The acts of heroism have not stopped with people, but have also included animals.
Several dogs have reportedly saved koalas from the deadly bushfires.
One woman told how her horse, Charmer, helped find a way to safety.
“I didn’t know whether we were riding into the fire or exactly where it was because we couldn’t get updates. I just knew that it was extremely smoky,” said Bec Winter.
“I could feel heat and I don’t know whether that was from the sun or… the fire… it was terrifying. But, I had so much faith in Charmer to get me out safely and she did that. She’s my hero.”
‘I didn’t know if we were riding into the fire’
She, her son Riley, and a cousin had been monitoring the bushfires near the coastal town of Moruya, when they decided to leave the area on New Year’s Eve.
While her son and cousin drove to the beach, Ms Winter chose to ride Charmer.
As the thickening smoke left her disorientated, it was the horse who managed to find a path to safety and a local pub on the coast where they found refuge.
The owners of Moruya’s Waterfront Hotel, Mark and Linda Ethell, advertised the pub’s large grass paddock on social media as a respite for horses and other animals impacted by the fires.
Image: Bec Winter with her son, Riley, and her horse Charmer
They have offered Ms Winter and her son a free room and food.
“A local town is going to go through pretty tough times because people have lost their houses and lives been lost … it’s tough time for all,” said Mr Ethell.
Elsewhere, more than 1,000 residents and holidaymakers who were evacuated from the Victorian coastal town of Mallacoota, which has been cut off for days by wildfires, arrived at the port of Hastings, near Melbourne, on Saturday.
With more than 200 fires already burning, and more predicted, the country’s navy launched what has been billed as the largest peacetime evacuation in Australia’s history.
Image: Evacuees from Mallacoota arrive on the navy ship HMAS Choules at the port of Hastings, Victoria
Families as well as dozens of pets – 113 dogs from dachshunds to Alsatians, three cats and a rabbit were rescued by two Royal Australian Navy ships, HMAS Choules and MV Sycamore.
James Corrigan, who spent 24 hours packed with eight friends in a sport utility vehicle on the beach when fires roared through the town on New Year’s Eve, said it was a relief to be back in Melbourne.
“It was pretty scary… we were worried the fire would be really hot with embers coming through,” he said.
“There was a period of not knowing how we’d get out.”
Source : Sky News