BURNT OUT: The damaged fire truck that Neville Smith and Bill Petrie were traveling in. INSET: Firefighters battle the blaze.
BURNT OUT: The damaged fire truck that Neville Smith and Bill Petrie were traveling in. INSET: Firefighters battle the blaze. Channel 9

The harrowing moment firey caught in raging fire

A HUMBLE hero has been burnt fighting the catastrophic bushfires in Tenterfield.

At 5pm on Friday the Westpac Rescue Helicopter responded to reports a member of the Steinbrook RFS brigade had suffered serious burns to his hands, arm, legs, back, face and airways.

Neville Smith, 65, was one of two firefighters in a fire truck fighting the Mount Mackenzie Road fire, south of the Tenterfield township.

Craig Brown, Mr Smith's long-term friend, and volunteer at NSW RFS for 20 years said his mate is a battler and well-known selfless saint within the community.

"If both of you were standing in the cold shivering, he would give you his coat," Mr Brown said.

"Even if he doesn't know you, he will give you everything to help you out."

Mr Smith was putting out the edge of a flame that was about to jump a paddock to another property when winds picked up, putting Mr Smith and fellow firefighter Bill Petrie in danger.

Mr Smith was fighting the fire on Tenterfield councillor Bronwyn Petrie's property.

"I turned around and saw Neville walking towards me, his trousers where burnt up to the knee, with gangly bits of material hanging from where they had been singed," Cr Bronwyn Petrie said.

"His hand was extremely burnt, particularly his right hand and elbow."

"His hair and beard had been singed down really short, he said 'I won't need a hair cut'.

"Most people would of been screaming but he was holding it together.

"The first thing he did was ask me to check on Bill.

"And said, 'I have to ring my son James'.

Mr Smith was transported to Tenterfield Hospital for initial treatment and was stabilised before being airlifted to Royal Brisbane Hospital.

He is in a critical but stable condition.

Mr Smith grew up on a diary farm in Tenterfield and is well-known for his outstanding community contributions of service.

He volunteers up to five days a week, from two to four hours a day at Haddington nursing home, checking in with residents and helping cooking, craft and singing activities.

Michelle McBurney, Activities Officer at Haddington nursing home and friend of Mr Smith for 12 years said "if there is someone in need, he will go and do something about it."

"Everybody respects and loves him," Mr McBurney said.

"This is a very catastrophic event that has happened here."

When Michelle heard her friend was injured she ran to Tenterfield hospital where Mr Smith lay in an induced coma and whispered loving words to him before he was transported to Brisbane.

"He brings firewood to our family for free, whenever we need and I'm not the only one he does this for," she said.

"He taught my kids to wood carve. He is a master wood carver and makes things for people just to bring a smile to their face."

Pamela Sammut, Pastor at Tenterfield community church said he is a "rare sort of a guy".

"Many many people in this town are praying for him."

The fire truck Mr Smith was found in was destroyed by fire.

The second firefighter in the truck, Bill Petrie, was not injured.

Neville's yard was burnt in the fire but crews were able to save his house.

NSW Rural Fire Service released a statement that said "sadly, this injury serves as a sobering reminder about how dangerous the conditions are, and the risks that our firefighters take to protect their community".



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