Volunteer firefighter praised for battling Black Summer fires


When Harley Fuller was told to get a hobby, he became a NSW Rural Fire Service volunteer.

Within a matter of months, the 26-year-old was fighting some of the most devastating fires our country has ever experience.

The Woolworths Lake Cathie assistant store manager has been nominated in the Thanks A Million campaign by Craig Feuz for his selfless efforts during the Black Summer bushfire season and subsequently his in-store leadership through the pandemic.

"I joined the RFS in June 2019 after we were encouraged during a Woolworths leadership program to develop a hobby," the Coopernook RFS volunteer said.

"Not long after I joined, the fire season really ramped up in the Port Macquarie area and out the back of Taree. We were called to go to these fired and help where we could."

Harley Fuller, Coopernook RFS volunteer and Woolworths Lake Cathie assistant manager. Picture: Supplied
Harley Fuller, Coopernook RFS volunteer and Woolworths Lake Cathie assistant manager. Picture: Supplied

Mr Fuller said he was able to be released from work for a month to focus his efforts on the fires.

"We were out fighting fires for the whole month, working 12hrs on, 12hrs off," he said. "It was really challenging and tiring but at the same time there was a sense of adrenaline that kept us going, knowing we were helping.

Much of his work involved protecting homes from the fires but there were times when things became too dangerous and they had to put their people first.

"There were a couple of nights that we were very, very busy fighting (fires) when we were defending homes when the fires got really close," Mr Fuller said. "It wasn't much of a thought at the time but on reflection, there were situation that were quite scary."

'The glow of flames was 50 feet above the trees': The New South Wales suburb of Hillville - just south of Taree - has kicked up to an emergency level fire after burning in excess of 20,000 hectares over several days. A local resident told Sky News "the glow of the flame was 50 feet above the tops of the trees". "The fire keeps coming down, my back two gullies are already on fire. I'm concerned," he said. "[Firefighters] are just saving houses, not land, so I'll have to do that myself," he said. "I think I've had three hours sleep in three days and I think it's only getting worse. "I have two boys in the same boat with their houses. I keep ringing them to make sure they're all right and I keep doing what I'm doing." Image: News Corp Australia

On returning to work at the supermarket, it wasn't long before things would dramatically change again when pandemic restrictions came in.

"It's been a very challenging time and we've all had to adapt very quickly and come to terms with the fact the plan you have in your head when you start may not be the plan you finish the day with," Mr Fuller said.

"Community spirit has been one great thing to come out of all this. Witnessing that has been one of the best things to come out of these trying times.

"Everyone needs support and to be able to give that to someone you meet on the street or just a random person, if we could al do more of that, the world would be a better place."

The Thanks A Million Pride of Australia awards recognise those who have gone above and beyond to help their fellow Australians through the challenges of 2020.

Nominate someone at thanksamillion.net.au and they could receive a $200 Woolworths Gift Card.

Terms and conditions apply. For full terms and conditions, visit thanksamillion.net.au