Act of bravery

Young highway patrolman Senior Constable Mathew Dreverman is being honoured alongside five of his NSW Police colleagues in receiving a national award for bravery.
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Senior Constable Mathew Dreverman is today receiving a national award for bravery.

A scene from the December 26, 2001 fire at Heathcote. Photo courtesy St George and Sutherland Shire Leader

The Australian Bravery Decorations were announced this morning by the Australian Honours and Awards Secretariat, which is attached to Government House in Canberra.

The five officers will be conferred with a Group Bravery Citation at an official ceremony to be held at Government House later in the year.

The award acknowledges their endeavours amid the Black Christmas bushfires which burnt for almost three weeks from 25 December 2001 across NSW – it has been labeled the longest continuous bushfire emergency in NSW history.

During the evening of December 26, 2011 Mathew attended the area of Garvan Road in Heathcote, south of Sydney in response to an intense bushfire that was beginning to threaten homes.

The police drove their vehicles through nearby streets to evacuate the area. After the initial evacuation the officers returned and saw that some residents had remained.

Shortly after midnight the wind changed direction and the fire began to impact on properties – the police drove through heavy smoke to identify spot fires and were, at times, within metres of the fire front.

The officers requested once again for the residents to leave, however they refused so the officers remained to provide assistance.

When the situation became desperate, due to the intense heat and smoke, they were forced to retreat into backyards. The officers grabbed hold of garden hoses and attempted to attack the fire.

Soon after a number of fire trucks arrived and the blaze was able to be subdued.

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