The life of Port Pirie CFS volunteer Brad Dennis changed forever when he sustained burns to over 50% of his body while fighting the Pinery Bushfire on 25 November 2015.
While his slow and arduous rehabilitation program continues 18 months after the incident, things are beginning to look brighter for Brad.
Not only has he returned to work as a farmer, but he is also counting down the days to when he and his girlfriend Alice board a seven-night cruise to the Pacific Islands, which is a whole other story of destiny and luck.
In a fitting result to the CFS Foundation’s 2016 Lottery, Alice’s grandmother Eyvonne Davidson, won the Early Return Prize – the P&O Pacific Island Hopper cruise.
Without a moment of thought Eyvonne gifted the prize to Brad and Alice, to commemorate the courageous journey Brad, his friends, family and Alice have endured since the Piney Fire.
Brad recalled the moments after he got a phone call saying he was needed on the fire front. He got the ute ready, filling it with water and then drove to the fire.
“The fire was getting a hustle up and I was on the back of the ute and the ute stalled, “ Brad said. “The fire turned and that is when we got caught in it. It went from a fire we were just about putting out, to a fire that was three times as high as the ute.”
Brad, who at the time was aged 21, tried to outrun the fire, but was forced to run through a wall of flames to reach unburnt ground.
“I never thought I was going to come out of the flames… then I was worried it was going to catch up to me,” he said.
Brad managed to wave down a vehicle, alerting his rescuers that his boss Allan Tiller who had been fighting the fire with him, was still back in the fire. Allan tragically lost his life.
At the Balaklava Hospital, Brad was unaware he was suffering major burns and refused to be put in a wheelchair, thinking he only required first aid and would be able to head back out to help his fellow volunteers.
“I thought they would put some dressing on and I would go back out and fight the fire. I didn’t realise how serious it was,” he said.
Brad was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and was in an induced coma for nine days.
The severity of Brad’s injuries meant he faced an intensive and lengthy rehabilitation, a process he undertook with great courage and determination over 10 months.
“I remember in hospital saying I was going to be home for harvest, be home to drive the header and I got there in the end,” he said.
Many people, including friends, family and the CFS Foundation, have aided Brad’s recovery at each step and he is very grateful for the encouragement, best wishes and support from his community.
The CFS Foundation is proud to have been able to assist Brad as he continues his rehabilitation. To ensure the Foundation can continue to support CFS volunteers, like Brad, in their time of need, click here to donate.