Wife wins bravery award

Aiden BoyhamSound Telegraph
Colleen Clarke will receive a bravery award after rescuing husband Greg.
Camera IconColleen Clarke will receive a bravery award after rescuing husband Greg. Credit: Aiden Boyham

Warnbro woman Colleen Clarke is one of 31 people who will be honoured at the Royal Life Saving Bravery Awards this week, after she courageously saved her husband Greg from a fire.

Mrs Clarke, who suffered burns to 28 per cent of her body, saved her husband after he accidentally set himself alight while lighting the fire in their lounge room back in July 2016.

With Mrs Clarke set to collect her award during a special ceremony hosted at the Government House Ballroom on Wednesday, the couple told the Telegraph that although they were slightly embarrassed about the situation, they were fortunate things didn’t turn out worse.

The blaze started after Mr Clarke had attempted to light the fire by putting petrol on it. After briefly burning the fire went out, with Mr Clarke putting more fuel on the fire before it blew back and he caught alight.

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“It went out and there was nothing there but suddenly it whooshed back and he was on fire,” Mrs Clarke said.

“I told him quickly to get outside but he fell over the table and, because of his injuries from the Navy, he couldn’t get himself up.

“He was on fire and I had nothing to throw on him so I threw myself on him — It’s amazing how fast it can all happen.

“Sometimes you don’t think about your own safety if you can save someone else.”

Mr Clarke suffered injuries to his left arm and was in hospital for a week, while Mrs Clarke’s burns saw her spend two months in hospital — with treatment for injuries still continuing.

Their Warnbro home also suffered extensive damage, with a combination of fire, smoke and sheer heat resulting in renovations to the entire property.

With the benefit of hindsight, the two are able to crack a joke or two about the incident, but know they came close to possibly an even bigger disaster.

“We’ve got a long way to go but we are alright,” Mr Clarke said. “We are alive, we can talk about it, joke about it — I know I mucked up but it was just one of those things that could have been a lot worse.”

After trying to light what appeared to be petrified wood, the couple urged the community to never repeat what they did and instead follow proper safety procedures.

“Apparently my sister-in-law nominated me, but she rang up to nominate me for a stupidity award,” Mrs Clarke joked.

“If a fire doesn’t light, throw the wood out and get some new stuff — don’t use petrol.”

Royal Life Saving Society chief executive Peter Leaversuch said each award recipient had displayed exceptional courage, empathy and initiative.

“The bravery and commitment of these individuals in saving lives is an excellent example to all Western Australians and deserves our highest recognition,” he said.

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