Paul Bannan, from Yea, was one of the volunteer firefighters who helped save lives during the Black Saturday Bushfires.
The tanker crew that night consisted of:
Lt. Rod Carbis... Crew Leader
Lt. Paul J. Bannan... Driver
Tiffany Vincent... Firefighter
Ben Dean... Firefighter
Terry Collins... Firefighter
There's a Solitary tanker heading south over the hills.
Crewed by three brave souls an' two bloody dills.
To be blest by some, abused and cursed by a few.
Went 'cause they were needed, into what? couldn't guess or knew.
Edged a slow path through endless smoke to atop Junction Hill.
Driving up there even now, down their spine, sends a chill.
Crew leader saying, "We'll be alright, Have faith in what ya know".
Scene that awaited them, taken straight from Dante's Inferno.
How did they come to be on top of the crest looking upon this dreadful sight?
For amidst the noise an' chaos that passed for communication that fateful night
An urgent request for assistance had somehow been understood an' received.
What might be awaiting them not thought about nor even perceived.
News bulletins, broadcasts, a town full of Refugees an' confused souls.
Smoke so dense couldn't see the lit up street lights on top of light poles.
They knew what was happening an' that Hell was waiting for them to call.
Here was their moment, time to pick it up an' run with the ball.
Off they went, beacons flashing, heralding their way upon the road to Flowerdale.
Eyes the size of dinner plates, faces on arrival soon to turn pale.
Down off that hill, groping their way thru windblown sparks an ash.
Too dangerous to rush, must be the slowest on record, that mercy dash.
Every tree a flaming tower of roaring flame an' ember.
Each fallen branch an' pothole sent thru their nerves a tremor.
In every direction, it appeared that all was burning an' ablaze.
Total ruin an' devastation met their eyes no matter where they gazed.
Thru Twenty kilometres an' miles of nerve wracking track.
Never giving breath to the thought "Mightn't make it back"
Passed the Primary school, surrounded by raging flame.
If asked, "It's gone", would have seemed a justified claim.
Limited vision poking along thru the smoke, sparks an' ash.
Praying that there was naught ahead into which they could crash.
Picture their surprise when thru a dark patch they arrived at the pub!
Bunch of lads out front drinking, watching the burning scrub.
"We've saved the pub", over the roar of Black Saturday fires, they screamed.
Had a heck of a fire break round it, paddocks overgrazed, picked clean.
Paused a minute, checked on their welfare an' that of the crew.
Off again at snail's pace, eyes an' noses running as if with the flu.
After what seemed eternity of passing thru the gates of hell.
What awaited them upon arrival made them sicken an' unwell.
It seemed Flowerdale was totally engulfed, burning from end to end.
A shock to all the senses, threatening to snap minds around the bend!
Overwhelmed at the start, not too sure what to tackle first.
Throats acid from sucking in smoke and dry with raging thirst.
Situation accessed, tasks allotted and orders given.
"Save what's still standing, forget what's already smitten".
Said farewell to Flowerdale's captain, he followed us out, all the way.
He and his tanker had been deployed elsewhere on that day.
Handshakes all round, a tear or two whilst wishing him well.
Only daughter was here somewhere amongst this earthly version of hell.
With only 3,000 litres of fire fighting water they did what they could.
Extinguished the fire around the CFA shed, that car belonged to Glen Woods.
Remounted the truck to assist a chap protect a home on Silver Creek Drive.
Flames an' embers licking all round, like angry wasps from a hive.
Not another house still standing, from what they could see.
Burning remains of many others blocking their visibility.
Faces gone from pale to scorched red from heat an' flames.
Should have done more, has been a heartless bastard's claim.
Limited water an' still burnt survivors to find.
Fate's clock was ticking, they were runnin outa time.
Then from somewhere or someone, The word finally got through.
The survivors were up on the main road, awaiting rescue.
Crew safety level, came an' went it's what they chose to do, left 600 litres.
Made the decision, "It should be enough for whatever awaits us".
Left that home up on Silver Creek Drive, it's standing still.
Crew depressed, one in tears, others feeling rather ill.
Off in search of those survivors - Found 'em! Aldo and his Courageous son.
Deserves recognition, cared for his father, though he had lost two siblings and his Mum.
Neither in flash condition, must have been ugly going thru what they went thru.
Gave what treatment that could be given, then up in the back with 'em three brave crew.
Wish it was possible to state that it was a pleasure trip back.
Seemed to stretch on forever an' ever, that burning, debris covered track.
Numerous calls for assistance, sent over the ether in vain.
No reply received, can only imagine Aldo's and his son's pain.
So they returned, under beacons flashing, prepared for what may come their way.
Every tree still a tower of flame an' ash, each lighting the road to Yea.
Finally reached the top of Junction hill, Almost home! What a thrill!
Relieved now that they had survived the gauntlet and their run thru the mill.
Halfway down met the Flowerdale tanker on its way out.
Going full bore only time for a brief wave none for a shout.
Arrived quietly back in station, nerves rattled, bodies quaking.
Handed over our passengers, Thank God the Ambos were waiting.
Saga almost over just a couple of parts left to tell.
For Flowerdale tanker pulled in behind, a fallen tree blocking the road to hell.
Told it was huge, a tanker killer, now believe in a babe born in a manger.
Still give Thanks, to the one unseen on the back... Yea tanker's Guardian Angel.
So who crewed that tanker, who answered the call for much needed aid?
The two Bloody dills should have known better, both officers of the brigade.
Them in the back, True heroes, as they pass pay them due respect.. stand tall
For I shall name them, These three Brave souls who answered the call.
They deserve at least that, cause I didn't take 'em to the pub to get tipsy or merry.
Should have got medals these Three, who travelled in the back...
Ben, Tiffany and Terry.