Lardner risked it all to protect his town
With tattoos of the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the NSW Rural Fire Service featuring prominently on each forearm, it’s not hard to see where John Lardner’s loyalties lie.
But it’s a fair bet he hasn’t put his life on the line watching a bunnies match.
As captain of the Nana Glen Rural Fire Service Mr Lardners commitment to his community is undoubted and his efforts through last summer’s bushfire season have led to the veteran firie being nominated for an Australia Day award.
A local resident who nominated Mr Lardner said she watched as he and his crew disappeared through “wall of fire” while they were working to protect the community in 2019.
Mr Lardner said they were very lucky to walk away from that “firestorm” on that critical Tuesday in November, when it looked like much of the Orara Valley was at risk of being decimated.
He knows he has seen things that nobody else could see in their lifetime.
“We were in an overrun and I never thought we were going to come out of that,” he said.
“If the wind didn’t change we probably wouldn’t have come home.”
The 38-year RFS veteran has been living in the community of Nana Glen for two decades and said he had never seen “anything that ferocious” in his entire firefighting career.
Incredibly, that wasn’t the first time Mr Lardner had been in an fire overrun that season, with he and his crew also having a lucky escape just three days before when the road they were driving on was cut off.
But despite the stress that comes with such harrowing experiences and the work he has had to do to keep “a lid on all the boxes” since then, Mr Lardner acknowledges those risks comes with the role.
“We did it to protect the community and we would have done it again in a heartbeat.”
Honoured to be nominated for the award, he says it is about more than just one person.
“It’s a great honour to be representing the RFS,” he said.
“The accolade is nice, but there were many of us, so if I do win I will be accepting it on behalf of everybody.”