Cork volunteer firefighter risked his life to tackle Australian bushfires

Cork volunteer firefighter risked his life to tackle Australian bushfires

Noel Fealy in a fire truck as they head to take one of the blazes in Kangaroo Island. 

A COBH native, who emigrated to Australia in 2008, has been on the frontline tackling devastating bushfires that have ravaged the country since late October.

Noel Fealy, 37, left Cobh when he was 21 to join the police in Kent, England before emigrating to Australia and joining the South Australian Police based in both metro and country postings before settling in Coffin Bay, South Australia.

As well as his full-time job, Noel is a member of the Country Fire Service (CFS), a voluntary organisation which assists in tackling bushfires.

Noel Fealy a police officer with the South Australian Police. 
Noel Fealy a police officer with the South Australian Police. 

"Volunteering is a major part of rural Australian residents especially those in bushfire-prone areas," Noel told The Echo

When a bushfire broke out in the popular tourist location, Kangaroo Island, the father of four immediately offered to help tackle the blaze. 

"Kangaroo Island is an Island just off mainland South Australia and was hit with massive bushfires, destroying well over half the Island.

"The fire began due to lightning strikes inside the dense woodland area of a National Park on the Western side of the Island. 

"It then quickly raged out of control due to severe hot and windy weather conditions.

"I volunteered to go and was deployed to the Fireground along with other 'Region 6' volunteers which covers people from all over the Eyre Peninsula district, including Coffin Bay, Tumby Bay and all the way up to Ceduna and Cleve," Noel explained. 

Noel Fealy emigrated to Australia in 2008 and is a member of Country Fire Service (CFS), a voluntary organisation which assists in tackling bushfires.
Noel Fealy emigrated to Australia in 2008 and is a member of Country Fire Service (CFS), a voluntary organisation which assists in tackling bushfires.

"We were deployed as a division and fought the fires on five-day rotations," he continued. 

The harrowing scenes of such intense fires are for most people incomprehensible.

Being in the thick of the action is indeed a very frightening experience as Noel outlined.

"Even though we're standing on the crew deck of a fire engine, tackling the blaze with hoses, it's very scary.

"Especially at night, when the sky is pitch black the red flames stand out so prominently - it's all you can see."

Describing the devastation caused by the fire at Kangaroo Island Noel said:

"Two members of the public have lost their lives due to the fire.

"The community of Kangaroo Island has been massively impacted with multiple homes and farms lost, including over 43,000 livestock destroyed. 

"Local fauna has also been ravaged.

"Infrastructure has been decimated and many tourists attractions and businesses have been left as nothing but charred remains."

Noel is part of the 'Region 6' volunteers, who helped tackle the bushfires at Kangaroo Island.
Noel is part of the 'Region 6' volunteers, who helped tackle the bushfires at Kangaroo Island.

Recounting one chilling night on the job, Noel explained how he heard a human-like scream, which turned out to be a koala on fire.  

"We managed to save it, but that was a very scary experience.

"The fires have been devasting for Australian wildlife," Noel said. 

One thing that has kept Noel going has been the support of his wife, Sarah.

"I received a text from my wife and four young kids saying how proud they were of me. 

"I didn't really consider it as something to be proud of but having been in harm's way to fight the fire for others I suppose it should be and it means a lot to have that family support."

"Being from a small town in County Cork, I am proud to carry the flag and be involved in the volunteer firefighting efforts in Australia," Noel added. 

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