Ambo honoured for bushfire bravery

Proud to serve: Paramedic Andrew Watson has been honoured for his work during the Black Saturday bushfires. Picture: Wayne Hawkins

By ALECIA PINNER: apinner@mmpgroup.com.au

AN Endeavour Hills paramedic who led a team to Kinglake during the
Black Saturday bushfires and co-ordinated the Ambulance Victoria
response effort has been honoured with a National Emergency Medal.

On February 7, 2009, Andrew Watson was heading an ambulance strike
team in Yarra Glen when the group, including six ambulances, was told
it was needed in Kinglake.

“It was a hair-raising drive,” Mr Watson said. “We drove in the evening darkness and fire was lapping the road.”

In the chaos, the team set up a triage to treat casualties.

“There were hundreds of people up there with terrible stories about loved ones who had died and pets, homes lost,” he said.

“We treated 100 sick and injured people over that 24-hour period.”

For the next few days, Mr Watson, who has worked as a paramedic
for 30 years – “pretty much all of my life” – assisted the effort from
Healesville as fires threatened nearby towns.

The overall effort was an unprecedented and sustained response to the fires which raged across the state, he said.

“I felt I was just doing my job but it is great to be recognised,” he said.

“The Queen put together the National Emergency Medals when she was
here last [in 2011] and it is one of those great, humbling things.”

One of Mr Watson’s first jobs, when he started out as a young
paramedic in 1983, was helping people in Cockatoo during the Ash
Wednesday fires.

Now a group manager, Mr Watson is in charge of 200 staff who make up nine teams.

He has co-ordinated responses to other large disasters, including
the Abbotts Road level crossing train crash in Dandenong South last
November.

National Emergency Medals were awarded to 26 deserving Ambulance
Victoria staff members at a ceremony in Melbourne on Wednesday, July 31. 

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