Veteran firey’s seen it all, but this blew him away
WHEN a deadly bush fire raced towards Rappville in October last year, veteran volunteer firefighter Steve Garbutt said the fire was the worst he had ever seen.
A NSW Rural Fire Service firefighter for more than 30 years, Mr Garbutt had been in the Rappville area battling the blaze when the fire conditions intensified and the fire took a run towards the village.
"Someone asked me how I could describe it and I said it was like a tsunami, but instead of a wall of water it was a wall of flame," he said.
"Just everything went black. Embers were running parallel to the ground."
Amid the chaos, Mr Garbutt said one of the standout moments from that dark day was when he went to drink some water which had been in his trousers pocket, and discovered the water was "boiling it was that hot".
Mr Garbutt said he joined the Wyrallah brigade 31 years ago to help him to become part of his community, and after rising through the brigade's management hierarchy has been continuously elected as brigade captain since 2007.
Now he has been recognised for his efforts with an Order of Australia Medal on the Australia Day 2020 Honours List.
A deeply humble man, Mr Garbutt said he was "blown away" when he heard he had been honoured with an OAM, one of the highest honours an ordinary citizen can receive.
"I still haven't been able to comprehend it yet," he said.
Mr Garbutt has been awarded the honour for service to the community through emergency response organisations, and as an extremely active member of the Rural Fire Service, he said he has attended "countless" incidents over the years ‒ everything from car crashes to house fires, floods as well as bush fires.
Most recently, Mr Garbutt has led his brigade to countless hours of firefighting to protect homes and residents on the Busby Flat and Myall Creek firegrounds.
As well as serving his local community, Mr Garbutt has also been deployed on countless occasions to help out those in trouble across the country.
He has been deployed to assist at the Black Saturday fires in Victoria in 2009, as well as the 2011 Flinders Range fires, the Western Australia fires and helping to clean up flooding in Brisbane in 2011, as well the local flooding in 2017.
Mr Garbutt has also received a number of RFS awards over the years, including a long service medal in 2007, followed by a secondary clasp in 2018.
In 2018 he was awarded the NSW RFS commissioner's commendation for service, an internal award which recognises meritorious service or outstanding actions.
Mr Garbutt will receive his OAM at a ceremony later in the year.