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Firefighters receive the highest of MFB honours

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23 Nov 2009
For the first time in fifty years, the MFB's highest honour, the valour medal, was awarded to Leading Firefighter (LFF) Mark Fincher, Leading Firefighter Brian O’Connell and Senior Firefighter (SFF) Russell Johnson.

The medals were presented at a ceremony at the MCG by the Minister for Police and Emergency Services the Hon. Bob Cameron, and the President of the MFB Board Mr Adrian Nye.

The Valour Medals presented recognise the extreme bravery and heroism displayed by LFF Fincher, LFF O’Connell and SFF Johnson, in saving their colleague LFF Richard Zapart, at a Yarraville factory fire on 12 October 2007.

Firefighters who assisted in caring for LFF Zapart and in mounting the attack on the fire were also acknowledged with Board Citations of Service and CEO Commendations for the crucial roles they played during this incident.

The day was also an opportunity for the MFB to acknowledge LFF Zapart himself, for his diligence and professionalism shown throughout his career, and also for his determination and courage in the way he approached his rehabilitation, both mentally and physically; he continues to be an inspiration to his family, friends and colleagues.  The occasion also allowed the MFB to formally acknowledge Richard's wife Elaine, for the way in which she cares for Richard and for her continued dedication.  

The MFB Valour Medal is an award for meritorious service. It was instituted in 1921 as a result of a recommendation by the then Chief Fire Officer Mr. H.B. Lee and was intended to recognise outstanding bravery. The medal has only been awarded six times in the history of the Brigade, with the last recipient Sub-Station Officer H.A. Stirling in 1959.

The circumstances surrounding the fire in Yarraville on 12 October 2007 were unforeseen; the fire was extremely unusual, in that the ignition did not occur until the MFB crews had been in attendance for some time.

Thanks to the bravery and dedication shown by LFF Zapart’s colleagues, he was rescued from the fire and received prompt medical treatment by MFB firefighters and paramedics.

This incident – both horrific in nature and lasting in impact – has displayed the very best qualities of MFB staff: camaraderie, dedication and bravery.

Of his colleagues, Mr Zapart said: “They don’t see themselves as heroes but that’s exactly what they are – heroes.”

Award Recipients:

Valour Medal

  • Leading Firefigher Mark Fincher
  • Leading Firefighter Brian O’Connell
  • Senior Firefighter Russell Johnson

Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board Citation of Service

  • Senior Station Officer Damian Foletti
  • Station Officer Ronald Miller
  • Station Officer Graham Peacock
  • Leading Firefighter Craig Williams
  • Qualified Firefighter Andrew Cliff
  • Qualified Firefighter Andrew Wilson
  • Firefighter Elise Mor

Chief Executive Officer Commendation

  • Station Officer Christopher Kaye
  • Commander Kenneth Brown

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