Drive to raise funds for fire vol­un­teers

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - YOLANDE STANDER

THE PLET­TEN­BERG Bay com­mu­nity has ral­lied around a self­less young fire­fighter, who is not only bat­tling to re­cover af­ter suf­fer­ing se­vere burn wounds while fight­ing fires in the area, but has also lost his “brother” in the flames.

Ian Barnard, a Plett South Fire Man­age­ment Unit (FMU) vol­un­teer, was with fallen fire­fighter Bradley Richards when they were caught in a rapidly spread­ing fire in the Hark­erville area on Wed­nes­day.

Barnard’s wife, Ste­fanie, said her hus­band and Richards had been fight­ing the Plett fires when they saw a wall of flames about 100m to 150m away from them.

“The fire was rel­a­tively far from them, but Ian had a bad feel­ing about it,” Ste­fanie said.

She added that he de­cided to turn the ve­hi­cle they were us­ing to fight the blaze.

“While he was try­ing to get the ve­hi­cle in re­verse the wind had picked up dra­mat­i­cally and the fire was sud­denly upon them.”

Ste­fanie said the fire “jumped into the ve­hi­cle” and forced the two friends to jump out. In the process, Richards be­came en­gulfed by flames.

“Ian took off his jacket to try to pro­tect Bradley and ran to the bakkie where fel­low fire­fight­ers were wait­ing.”

Their fel­low vol­un­teers took them to the near­est hos­pi­tal for treat­ment.

Richards was trans­ported to the Ge­orge Medi­clinic where he later suc­cumbed to his in­juries, while Barnard was taken to Ge­orge Pro­vin­cial Hos­pi­tal and later trans­ferred back to Plet­ten­berg Bay Medi­clinic.

“It has been a very tough time for Ian. He and Bradley were like broth­ers. He is dev­as­tated.”

Ian was se­verely burned around his face, ears and hands. So far, he has un­der­gone sev­eral surg­eries, in­clud­ing a skin graft on his right hand.

“The doc­tors will wait and see how his left hand heals by Mon­day and will then make a de­ci­sion about maybe an­other surgery.”

She said the or­deal had been very trau­matic for the fam­ily. “The in­ci­dent hap­pened on our two chil­dren’s birth­day. They are three and six years old and were born on the same day.”

Ste­fanie said to add to the tragedy, her own par­ents, also Plett lo­cals, had lost their home in the fires.

“It has been a rough few days, but we are truly grate­ful for all the sup­port we have been re­ceiv­ing. It is ac­tu­ally over­whelm­ing.”

She said there was still a long and dif­fi­cult road ahead for Ian and their fam­ily. Barnard will be un­able to work un­til he heals com­pletely. “He works with his hands, so this is go­ing to be dif­fi­cult.”

Barnard runs his own busi­ness, Fix It, pro­vid­ing a va­ri­ety of prod­ucts and ser­vices from weld­ing and met­al­work to main­te­nance.

The Eden Lions Club and First­care Wild­fire have now es­tab­lished the Fire­fighter Bradley Richards Fund to as­sist vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers, like Barnard, af­fected in the line of duty.

CrossFit Plett has also started an ini­tia­tive, not only to hon­our Richards, but to raise funds for Barnard.

The CrossFit com­mu­nity reg­u­larly per­forms what they call Hero Work­outs – in­tense work­outs in hon­our of fallen he­roes.

Box owner, Don­ald Raven­scroft, said they would be do­ing a work­out in hon­our of Bradley to­day. “We have asked mem­bers and non-mem­bers to par­tic­i­pate and in the process do­nate funds in sup­port of Ian Barnard to as­sist him on his road to re­cover.”

Raven­scroft said sev­eral other CrossFit boxes across the coun­try have since de­cided to join in the ini­tia­tive. – Gar­den Route Me­dia the area, three crew mem­bers re­turned to base to stand and hold. We held the house but lost the work­shop and equip­ment store. Bunker suits, jump suits, boots, hoses, flash hoods and much more were gone,” said Stephen Ritky.

“The primary loss is the loss of one of our most ac­tive mem­bers of our crew ( Richards). He was al­ways there. Al­ways. Ev­ery time. And by that I do not just mean phys­i­cally. He gave all, he shared all and he lifted all. No mat­ter who stepped in to fill his po­si­tion, Brad can never be re­placed.

“In con­ver­sa­tions with Bradley’s fam­ily, it came up that Brad’s death had a pur­pose. And we be­lieve in that pur­pose.”

Ritky said vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers played an im­por­tant role, but of­ten don’t have the equip­ment and train­ing to deal with large-scale emer­gen­cies.

Lo­cal busi­ness­man Dun­can Brown has set up a dis­as­ter fund, Plett Peo­ple’s Purse. – Gar­den Route Me­dia


A mourner at the memo­rial ser­vice.

Bradley Richards

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