Heartbreak of failed bid to rescue friend

IN PAIN: Ian Barnard recovers in hospital after his ordeal by fire last week

In pain and heartbroken is the way Plettenberg Bay volunteer firefighter Ian Barnard describes his situation.

Holed up in hospital after devastating fires ripped through the Garden Route late last week, Barnard, 38, said there was nothing more he wanted to do than “be out there with my brothers”.

Barnard, hailed as a hero after he bravely tried to save his best friend Bradley Richards, 24, said yesterday that in his 19 years of fighting fires he had never encountered one as devastating as last week’s.

“I have never seen a fire behave like that. It moved 170m towards us in about three seconds. It was possessed,” he said.

Speaking about Richards, who succumbed to his injuries last week, an emotional Barnard said: “I tried to get him to safety. I put my jacket on him but it was too late.”

Plettenberg Bay volunteer firefighter Bradley Richards died after he sustained burns to 70% of his body while combating raging fires along the Garden Route.
Picture: Firstcare Wildfire Support on Facebook.

He said Richards had been his best friend. “We did everything together. He was the kind of guy who when he walked into a room he would light it up.”

In hospital, Barnard’s face and hands are bandaged, his wounds red and raw as he anticipates a fairly long stay there.

His wife Stephanie, 29, is never far from his side and their two children, aged six and three, stop in for visits.

It is evident that his thoughts are never far from the men he calls his brothers.

“Firemen are different. We are a brotherhood,” he said, shrugging off the hero label.

“That’s not how I feel. All my brothers are heroes. I’m useless here in hospital. I’d give anything to be out there with them.

Barnard said last week’s fires were not the last he would fight.

“You don’t become one, you are born one,” he said of being a firefighter.

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