A Childers paramedic has been awarded the highest of honours for his efforts in single-handedly saving a woman, her daughter and their two pet dogs from a burning house in 2019.
Michael Formica has been QAS Officer in Charge at Childers Ambulance Station for about two years and was this week formally recognised for the brave rescue which occurred in his time as a paramedic in Harristown, Toowoomba.
On Tuesday the medal was presented by Her Excellency the Honourable Dr Jeannette Young PSM at the Australia Awards Investiture Ceremony at Government House in Brisbane.
In September 2019, when Michael had just clocked off from his shift and was driving home, he saw smoke in the distance.
“The smoke was coming from about three houses away and as I got closer I could hear the crackling of the fire,” he said.
“There was a crowd of people around and I heard some screams coming from the back of the house.
“I saw a gentleman running back and forth with a house hose trying his best to frantically douse the flames.”
Michael said it was in that moment he went into auto-pilot, first asking the man who was inside the house before he himself entered the fiery scene.
“The screaming was ongoing and when I got to the woman inside she was engulfed in billowing and thick black smoke,” he said.
“I managed to get her out of the house and she collapsed on the ground.”
Michael battles smoke and fire to get to child
Michael said the worst wasn't behind them as the woman told him her daughter was still trapped inside.
“Being a parent myself, I already had a feeling there was a child left in that house and so I started making my way back in,” he said.
“The gentleman using the hose had managed to soak the floor of the laundry so I was able to get down and crawl my way through the water and into the smoke.
“The heat was intense, I couldn't see anything and couldn't breathe.”
To help him navigate his way through the flames, Michael came back out of the house and broke a few windows before again entering the inferno.
“In between all of that I managed to save a couple of dogs,” he said.
“One was in a cupboard and another dog came running out of a room.
“I think I went in and out of the house about five times and on my last entry I was able to locate the child in the garage portion of the house.
“I scooped her up and took her to mum, got them both out the front and started to treat them.”
Thankfully, all three survived the ordeal.
Bravery Medal a proud moment for paramedic
Receiving his Bravery Medal this week had Michael recounting the memories from that day in 2019 and he said his emotions were still raw.
“That day I remember thinking to myself well, this is how it's going to end,” he said.
“You do it anyway. You do it hoping someone would do it for your kids.”
Michael said, in being recognised for the rescue, he was both proud and humbled.
“I am very proud and honoured, I believe the award is something that is not given very readily,” he said.
“I am a little bit embarrassed too because I am not really one to talk about this sort of thing.”
The local paramedic said the years that followed the incident had been difficult to overcome but he had a fantastic support network surrounding him that had helped him through.
“For a while after it all happened it was tough, every time I smelt smoke it took me back to that day,” he said.
“I often think my family could have lost a lot if I hadn't of made it out so for me, this award is all for them.
“My wife, my two sons and my daughter are my stalwarts and the station that I came from were also fantastic.”
The Queensland Ambulance Service has paid homage to the local paramedic this week via a Facebook post congratulating him on his recognition.
“We're incredibly proud of your efforts Michael. There is no better use of the term ‘hero' than by this example of true bravery.”
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