An off-duty firefighter says he used a tomahawk and a sledgehammer to help save two children from a burning Brisbane home on Christmas Day.
Mark Dutton was driving home from a shift on Wednesday afternoon when he saw the fire engulfing the house in Oxley.
The veteran firefighter could hear children screaming from a second-storey bathroom, so he used a ladder to try to get to them.
“I told the children … ‘we know that you are there, stay where you are, close the door … we are coming to get you’,” Mr Dutton told reporters on Thursday.
But he couldn’t get through the security bars, so the experienced firefighter asked someone to grab something from a nearby toolshed that he could use to smash the window.
Mr Dutton was handed a tomahawk, but it didn’t help.
“Amazingly a couple of times it didn’t break … it bounced off it,” he said.
By that time, other firefighters had arrived at the blaze.
They had a sledgehammer which Mr Dutton, who had already breathed in a lot of smoke, used to smash through the window.
Another firefighter reached in and grabbed an eight-year-old boy from the burning home, passing him to Mr Dutton.
“He seemed semi-conscious and reasonably responsive,” Mr Dutton said.
“I only had him for a matter of 20 seconds by the time I handed him over to the ambulance service.”
The girl, 15, had already escaped from the burning home.
A woman, believed to be the children’s mother, died on the first storey.
Mr Dutton only briefly considered entering the burning two-storey home to rescue the children.
“I for a split second did think about it and then realised I didn’t have the equipment with me and it was better for me to stay outside … than enter a building and become another victim,” he said.
Although he’s been dubbed a Christmas Day hero, the firefighter of 26 years doesn’t expect any accolades.
“I personally don’t expect any recognition or congratulations – I was just there at the time and glad I could help out,” he said.
The rescue operation wouldn’t have been successful without the help of neighbours armed with garden hoses and emergency personnel, he said.
Inspector Sean Cryer praised the actions of Mr Dutton and other rescuers.
“It was a very brave act and they should be congratulated for their actions,” Insp Cryer said.
Mr Dutton hopes to meet the girl and boy he helped rescue, but only if they wish to.
They are both being treated in hospital for serious burns.
Police are trying to contact their father, who is reportedly overseas.
The family is believed to be Vietnamese.
Authorities are working to remove the woman’s body from the house, which is close to collapse.
The cause of the fire, which broke out about 5pm (AEST) Wednesday, is still unknown.
However, investigators have refused to rule out an attempted murder-suicide.
* Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit Multicultural Mental Health Australia www.mmha.org.au.