Earlier this week, false rumours began circulating that the firefighter who was filmed telling Prime Minister Scott Morrison to “to go and get f*****” had been dismissed from his duties.
But for Paul Parker, the reality was far more devastating.
The Nelligen firefighter, whose appearance on 7News resonated among frustrated bushfire victims and was broadcast across the globe, was faced with the terrifying prospect of defending his own home inland from Batemans Bay while juggling his duties as a volunteer firie.
As the Clyde Mountain Fire encroached on his and his neighbours’ homes on New Year’s Eve, Mr Parker was out fighting fires in the surrounding areas, his neighbour Karla Duroy told Yahoo News Australia.
“As soon as the fire front passed, Paul jumped in the truck and left to go and save his neighbours’ properties,” she said.
But by the time he returned, many of the properties, including his own, had been “substantially damaged” by the fire which ripped through the community.
The fire scorched parts of Mr Parker’s home, destroying fencing, water tanks and outbuildings.
As soon as the fire had passed, an exhausted Mr Parker, who is a tradesman by day and lives with his partner Tanya, jumped back in his truck and left to go save other properties.
He was later filmed by 7News cameras collapsed on the ground.
“I’ve lost seven houses already in Nelligen and I’m not going to lose anymore,” he says in the footage, sprawled across the roadside.
He’d earlier flagged down camera crews asking from the driver’s window of his truck: “Are you from the media?”
“Tell the prime minister to go and get f***ed from Nelligen.
“We really enjoy doing this s***,” he continues sarcastically before giving a thumbs-up and driving off.
Ms Duroy has commended her neighbour’s selfless actions at the height of the danger and has since set up a GoFundMe page to help Mr Parker, who hasn’t had any income coming in while fighting fires, to rebuild his property.
“Please help donate to Paul, so that he can rebuild his own life whilst still protecting the community that he loves,” she wrote on the page.
A NSW Rural Fire Service told Yahoo News Australia earlier this week Mr Parker was asked to temporarily leave the field due to health concerns surrounding exhaustion from fighting the fires.
The decision had “nothing to do” with comments he’d made.
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