A local volunteer firefighter has been recognised in a big way for his altruism in helping New South Wales-based firefighters deal with the Black Summer bushfires.
Wellington Mills Bushfire Brigade member Keith Higham was one of three volunteer firefighters based within the Shire of Dardanup to receive a National Emergency Medal as a token of gratitude for his help and placing himself in such a volatile environment.
Mr Higham received his medal during the Shire of Dardanup’s recent council meeting with Shire president Mick Bennett and his fellow councillors thanking him for his service.
Burekup Bushfire Brigade members Tony Jenour and Scott Bradbury also received medals.
The three volunteer firefighters were among many from Western Australia that travelled to New South Wales in 2019-2020 to help fight the Black Summer bushfires, which devastated towns in the Eastern States.
Mr Higham said receiving a National Emergency medal was a “nice recognition”.
“It’s certainly not why you do something like this and it’s not like an individual excellence award but it is a nice recognition,” he said.
“It’s a collective effort and it’s nice that we were all recognised for our contributions.”
Mr Higham said he volunteered to travel to the Eastern States after receiving an email from the Wellington Mills Bushfire Brigade’s chief bushfire control officer.
“It just came across as an opportunity to go on a deployment to New South Wales,” he said.
“I don’t think I even realised at the time how significant it was in terms of what was going on over there.
“It was just something to gain a bit of experience in what was a quiet time for us.”
He said operations in New South Wales were quite different to how things were done locally, which provided an eye-opening experience.
“Everything was new,” he said.
“We were all set up in a camp-style arrangement which was a different experience as well.
“We got out and mingled with the community during our off-time as well which was a nice thing to do.”
The National Emergency medal is one of Australia’s most prestigious honours, recognising Australians for their unique contribution and commitment in providing a significant service in response to a declared national emergency.
Mr Bennett said he was “honoured and privileged” to present the medal to Mr Higham.