Krystal Widdows was on duty at the Eaglehawk Fire Station as fires broke out across Victoria on Black Saturday.
Her father, Terry Widdows, a firefighter of 36 years, had already been dispatched to Redesdale to help bring the fire there under control when news of the threat closer to home began filtering in.
“My dad had gone down to Redesdale and he was (fighting) the fire there and I was sitting at the station,” she said.
“A member of the public came and knocked on the door and said ‘do you realise there’s a fire going down at Bracewell Street?’
“As soon as we turned around and saw it, it was obviously something quite big.
“It was quite a scary experience because you didn’t know how big it was going to be.”
It was thanks to CFA volunteers like Krystal and Terry that many more lives weren’t lost on that terrible day and last night their dedication to the communities they serve was recognised.
The father and daughter were among 20 firies from the Eaglehawk, Lockwood and Maiden Gully brigades to be awarded the National Emergency Medal for their work to protect life and property over the course of the unfolding disaster.
CFA brigade administration support officer Michelle Cannon said the medals were an acknowledgement of the firefighters’ efforts “above and beyond normal duties”.
“For Eaglehawk I think hardly any of the members slept for the following ten days,” she said.
“Every time there was a leaf smoking they got called and would be racing out there.
“The whole community was just panicking and on high alert and I don’t think the whole brigade got five minutes sleep.”
Ms Cannon said the volunteers had fought fires all over the state, including as far away as Kinglake, which bore much of the brunt of the fire.
“Half the state was on fire so for a lot of people it was leaving their families and not knowing when they’d be home,” she said.
“Some of the things they had to see and do were quite extraordinary.”
Lockwood brigade firefighters Ronald Marsh, Douglas Baker, Mark Birchmore, Christopher Browell, David Hutchings, Benjamin McDonald, John McDonald and James Tatt also received medals along with Hayden Allen, Matthew Everly, Leslie Jones, Christian Kyle, Brett MacCallum, Douglas Murley, Kevin Murley (deceased), Barry Palmer (deceased) and Peter Trew from the Eaglehawk brigade and Robert Williams from Maiden Gully.
The National Emergency Medal was introduced by the federal government in 2011 and recognises service to others during “nationally significant emergencies”.