By Nathan Johnston
IT’S COMING up five years since Toby Paul rescued one of his neighbours from a burning Dumbalk house whilst wearing just a pair of boardies.
He’d almost forgotten about it until he received a letter in the mail a couple of months ago to say that he’ll be receiving a bravery award from the government.
He didn’t think his efforts were superhuman at the time, and still doesn’t now. He was just happy that he could help.
“I thought I was doing what anyone else would do.”
It was the evening of December 16, 2011, and Toby, a plasterer, now 35, was assembling his daughter’s bike for Christmas.
“The street started filling with smoke,” he said.
“One of my neighbours called and asked if I was having another barbecue!
“I went out for a look and there was smoke coming from a house a few doors away.
“A few people had also gathered at the house and I could hear a dog barking inside.”
Two women have also been nominated for a bravery award for their part in the rescue.
Alexandra Lloyd and her mum Sergeant Deryn Riccardo, who was on crutches and off-duty at the time, were driving by when they saw the fire, and helped break into the home.
Ms Lloyd then shone a torch inside which was when Toby could see that a man was lying on the couch.
“I went in and found him asleep. The room was full of smoke so he must have had a little air-pocket under his arm because he wasn’t coughing and he was hard to wake up.
“I was screaming at him for what felt like a couple of minutes to get him moving.”
Toby said the heat was intense.
“The fire was in the kitchen and in the ceiling. I couldn’t see a metre in front of me because of the thick smoke but there was a glow in the kitchen.”
It was a hot night, and Toby didn’t even have a pair of thongs on.
“I just went down for a sticky beak so I wasn’t dressed for the occasion.”
Still, he got the job done and took his neighbour to safety.
He then departed as police and the fire brigade arrived.
“I had a cough for the next 20 to 30 minutes but everything cleared up just fine.
“I finished putting the bike together and went to bed.”
He said the man he rescued likes to keep a low profile, but says G’day whenever they cross paths in the street, and brings in a couple of beers every year at Christmas to pass on his gratitude.
Toby will get his award at an official presentation later in the year.