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Kevin Fletcher: One of Australia's highest decorated firefighters

Kevin Fletcher a a function held in the Board of Fire Commissioners boardroom for the Gazetting of the Star of Courage for firefighters actions at the Boral BLEVE, 1992 [Museum of Fire Collection]

Kevin Fletcher was one of Australia’s highest decorated firefighters receiving many medals throughout his career including the Star of Courage, the National Medal, Conspicuous Bravery Medal, the Bravery Medal, and the Bronze Medal from the Royal Humane Society, all on display at the Museum. Fletcher is said to have been a humble man, stating on numerous occasions that there were plenty of other firefighters that deserved recognition as much as he did.

Kevin Fletcher joined the New South Wales Fire Brigade (NSWFB, now Fire and Rescue NSW, FRNSW) on 17 May 1974 at the age of 27 as a probationary officer after serving in the Citizen Military Forces (CMF), the Department of Civil Aviation and Sutherland Hospital. He started his career at Headquarters Fire Station (now City of Sydney) before moving around to different stations in Sydney, eventually making his way to Albury in 1990.

During the night of 1 April 1990 Fletcher attended a major fire and explosions in the Boral Liquid Petroleum Gas storage facility at St Peters. Following an order to withdraw from the area because of the danger of imminent serious explosions, a head count revealed that one firefighter was missing. Fletcher and District Officer Alan Dwyer re-entered the danger zone and searched for the missing man until advised by radio that the man had been located and was safe. Fletcher and Dwyer then withdraw from the danger zone and shortly after the first of a series of boiling liquid expanding vapour explosions took place. Fletcher and Dwyer received the Star of Courage for their heroic actions.

Kevin Fletcher and Alan Dwyer after receiving their Star of Courage Medals at Government House, 24 September 1992 [Museum of Fire Collection]

Then on 19 April 1994 while Fletcher was off duty, he participated in the rescue of Val Cunningham from a burning car at Albury. Fletcher was sitting in his parked car when he heard the collision and explosion. He ran to the burning car where he found another man trying to release the unconscious driver. Fletcher climbed into the vehicle, which was now well alight with flames filling the cabin, and persevered until he had released the woman’s foot which was entangled in the pedals. He then dragged her to safety using himself to shield her from the flames wearing only a short-sleeved shirt. Fletcher sustained serious burns and was later taken to hospital for treatment. For his actions, Fletcher received the Conspicuous Bravery Medal, the Bravery Medal, and Bronze Medal from the Royal Humane Society.

Commissioner Ian MacDougall with Kevin Fletcher when Fletcher was presented with the Bravery Medal, September 1995 [Museum of Fire Collection]

Tragically, on 29 October 1996 at the age of 49, Kevin Fletcher arrived for his shift at Albury Fire Station when he suddenly collapsed and was unable to be revived. He received a full Brigade funeral on 1 November 1996 at the Sacred Hear Church in North Albury. His older brother Robert Fletcher, also a firefighter, commented on Kevin's life saying that "Kevin lived four life times" in his 49 years. "Kevin sought of had that way about him. No matter where he went he left his mark. He was a pretty gregarious and up front, and rough and tough looking but he was a real gentle fellow. A real softie. Old Fletch, when they gave him these medals and awards, he was a little bit reluctant because he thought there were plenty of other blokes in the fire brigades that did things similar and never got recognised."

To commemorate the 27th anniversary of Kevin's passing, the Museum of Fire was honoured to host four generations of the Fletcher family on 29 October 2023 to celebrate Kevin and to see his medals together again. Kevin’s medals came into the Museum in 2020 and are currently on display.

The Fletcher family at the Museum of Fire, 29 October 2023.

-Story by the Museum of Fire Heritage Team


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