Front Line's best and bravest honoured

When leading senior constable Todd Kirk ran into a burning building after an explosion at Wentworthville last year, he didn’t do it for a pat on the back.

Constable Kirk: "As police, we didn't have any fire protection. We were in short sleeved shirts going into this fire. So I drove a police vehicle into the fire to try to create a heat shield." Picture: Geoff Jones.

Constable Kirk: "As police, we didn't have any fire protection. We were in short sleeved shirts going into this fire. So I drove a police vehicle into the fire to try to create a heat shield." Picture: Geoff Jones.

Like the rest of the responding officers, fire fighters and paramedics around him, the 33-year-old Parramatta policeman was fueled by a desire to save the life of a man buried under burning rubble, even despite the risk to his own life.

People don't ring the cops for barbecues, they ring us to fix their problems. I like being that person. - Leading Senior Constable Todd Kirk, of Parramatta Police.

Without any fire protection, Constable Kirk and fellow officers from Parramatta and Holroyd ran into the burning debris to pull the trapped man to safety. Minutes later, the roof collapsed on the spot from where he had been dragged.

"Nine police ended up at Westmead hospital for burns," he said. "From those, I ended up at the Concord burns unit... It was tough.

"[But people don't ring the cops for barbecues, they ring us to fix their problems. I like being that person."

Despite Constable Kirk’s hospitalisation for first degree burns to his face, neck and hand, and internal burns to his chest cavity and throat, two weeks after the October 2013 incident, he was back on the beat.

On Friday, the dedicated policeman was among the 23 men and women honoured at the Parramatta lord mayor John Chedid’s inaugural front line services awards at Oatlands House, which celebrated the contributions of personnel from local services including police, Fire and Rescue NSW, paramedics, the Royal NSW Lancers and nurses at Westmead Hospital.

Kirk, whose police jacket partially melted during the ordeal, said he felt ‘‘deeply honoured’’ and ‘‘humbled’’ to receive an award in the 'Above the Call of Duty' category, but insisted the prize was not just for himself but for all the emergency services workers at the scene.

‘‘It's recognition for everybody,’’ he said. ‘‘It was a multiagency effort, everyone worked together, no one took a back step.’’

Parramatta police Commander Superintendent Wayne Cox said he was very proud of the great work done by his police, including Constable Kirk.

"In particular it's great to see recognition given to Leading Senior Constable Kirk, Leading Senior Constable Neppl, Constable Hohnen and Constable Blades for their dedication and commitment to the community and their fellow police," Supt Cox said.

Another person honoured was Wentworthville Fire Station officer, Wayne Keevers, who was recognised in the ‘Mateship’ category after a nomination from a colleague.

Wenty fire fighters Rob Slade, Dave Blomhdal, Rob "H" Hansen and Wayne Keevers in 2013. Also pictured is Dave's son, Jake Blomhdal.

Wenty fire fighters Rob Slade, Dave Blomhdal, Rob "H" Hansen and Wayne Keevers in 2013. Also pictured is Dave's son, Jake Blomhdal.

Equally humble, Keevers deflected personal praise and shared the honour with his mates.

‘‘It's humbling, but it's a two way street,’’ Mr Keevers said. ‘‘I don't like to be singled out because I know it's the nature of everyone in the emergency services that we're always trying to help our community.

‘‘We're on the front line together dealing with this stuff.’’

Crew member and fellow Wenty firefighter Dave Blomhdal, who has worked alongside Keevers for 12 years, said the Mateship award was "definitely appropriate," as his boss was ‘‘one of the best’’ in Fire & Rescue NSW, held in high regard even by those of his own rank.

He'd have a list of blokes five or six deep who'd all call him their best mate. - Wentworthville fire fighter Dave Blohmdal on his station officer, Wayne Keevers.

"He'd have a list of blokes five or six deep who'd all call him their best mate," Blohmdal said.

‘‘His knowledge is second to none, his operational skills are second to none. He's a good leader and a good bloke."

Keevers, who grew up at Carlingford and has lived in the Parramatta local government area his whole life, has been a fire station officer for 17 years and at Wentworthville for 14.

Full list of award recipients:

NSW POLICE – PARRAMATTA

Beyond the Call of Duty

Leading Senior Constable Todd Kirk

Mateship

Constable Michael Blades

Bravery

Leading Senior Constable Bradley Neppl

Constable Michael Hohnen

NSW POLICE – ROSEHILL

Beyond the Call of Duty

Francene Couch – General Administration Support Officer

Constable John Nicholas

Senior Constable Brett Starr

Constable Adam Nash

Constable Katrina Bond

Senior Constable Brendan Lewis

AMBULANCE NSW – PENRITH

Beyond the Call of Duty

Mark Whittaker – Ambulance Liaison Officer

Phil Templeman - Ambulance Liaison Officer 

Mateship

Virginia Boyn – Paramedic

NSW FIRE & RESCUE – PARRAMATTA

Beyond the Call of Duty

Robert Callow – Station officer

Mateship

Wayne Keevers – Station Officer

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