Brave Blackbutt fire battler saluted

Bernie Doyle remembers the Boxing Day of 2001 well.

The former police officer was on highway patrol at Engadine when the call came to evacuate residents from a street in Heathcote threatened by a bushfire.

The Blackbutt man and a crew of his colleagues evacuated the area, but some residents refused to leave their homes.

The officers stayed to provide them with assistance, seeking shelter in backyards and using garden hoses to subdue the fire as it crept closer.

"I can remember the poor animals running everywhere, coming out of the bush," Mr Doyle said.

"I tell you what, they're pretty frightening, these fires. They're a fairly vicious thing when they are happening, the flames are high and up close, telegraph poles are catching alight."

Fire trucks arrived soon after and the blaze was controlled.

Mr Doyle and five of his colleagues were awarded a group bravery citation in the Australian Bravery Decorations by the Governor-General on Monday for their efforts during the bushfire.

Now retired, Mr Doyle was humbled by the accolade.

"It's very nice to be recognised," he said.

The awards recognise Australian citizens and others for acts of bravery in other than warlike situations. This year, one Star of Courage was awarded, as well as 14 bravery medals, 22 commendations for brave conduct and 10 group bravery citations.

Corrimal's Glen Olerenshaw has also been commended for his brave attempt to save a man swept off rocks at Currarong almost 30 years ago.

Mr Olerenshaw was rock fishing with two men at the South Coast town in June 1986 when a wave crashed into the rocks and swept one man into the ocean.

Mr Olerenshaw quickly climbed the cliff to retrieve a 50-metre length of rope, before climbing back down, securing one end of the rope around his waist and diving into the water.

While his companion held onto the other end, Mr Olerenshaw swam the length of the rope in an attempt to save the man, but was unable to reach him.

Hero: Former police officer Bernie Doyle. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

Hero: Former police officer Bernie Doyle. Picture: GREG TOTMAN


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