Drive to raise funds for fire volunteers
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.