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Edwin Bland of Bridgetown recognised at WA Fire and Emergency Services Awards

Melissa PedeltyManjimup-Bridgetown Times
Murray Lang Bush Fire Service Award recipient Edwin Bland.
Camera IconMurray Lang Bush Fire Service Award recipient Edwin Bland. Credit: Melissa Pedelty/Manjimup-Bridgetown Times

A Bridgetown volunteer who helped fight a destructive bushfire that destroyed several homes and burnt through more than 65,000ha this year has spoken of his brush with death after being awarded for his heroic efforts.

Bridgetown Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade member Edwin Bland was presented an individual WA Fire and Emergency Services Award last week after battling the blaze that could have been a wind change away from burning the town to the ground.

Mr Bland told Manjimup-Bridgetown Times a week after he was awarded the Murray Lang Bush Fire Service Award about his experience earlier this year when the fire roared over the top of his vehicle during the battle to save Bridgetown from the inferno.

He said despite 50 years of service, the Bridgetown fires earlier this year were the scariest he had ever been faced with.

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“It’s very scary when you hear that roar and then it’s gone,” he said.

“You don’t think about it at the time and then after you think it was a bit close for comfort.”

“It frightened me and the whole town because it was heading this way.

“The fact that everyone was on evacuation order, it terrified me.”

Mr Bland said he was surprised to have been nominated and even more surprised to have actually won the award, which was presented by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services commissioner Darren Klemm on the night.

“When the nomination came through, it took a while to sink in,” he said.

“We do our role with no recognition, we don’t expect recognition, it’s just something we do.

“So to actually win out of over 26,000 volunteers across the State was quite an honour.”

The award is the highest individual honour one can receive as a Bush Fire Service volunteer and recognises an individual who has dedicated themselves to duty beyond normal expectations over the last 12 months, and has kindness, understanding, compassion and courage in the line of duty.

Mr Bland is involved heavily in the BVBFB and has fought several major bushfires across the State in the last year. He has also been directly involved in BlazeAid for these communities, repairing fencing that has been damaged by the fires and providing other support for the families and individuals effected.

Mr Bland said his wife Judy also volunteered.

“It’s great being able to do it together,” he said.

“It’s just a way of life for us, we really enjoy doing it.”

Mr Bland said he highly recommends volunteering for the local brigade and to talk to the local captain if interested.

“If anyone is thinking of volunteering, we’re always looking for volunteers, there’s plenty of roles you can do,” he said.

“We love it and I’m sure they’ll love it.”

Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson said over the past year, local emergency services staff and personnel have once again faced incredible challenges, working night and day to protect communities right across the State.

“These awards are a fitting opportunity to recognise those who have gone above and beyond, often putting their lives on the line to save others,” he said.

“On behalf of the Western Australian community, I would like to congratulate our WAFES Awards winners.

“I would also like to extend my gratitude to not only our award winners but the entire emergency services family for their amazing efforts in the past year.”

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