Nana Glen Rural Fire Brigade captain of 14 years, John Lardner.
Nana Glen Rural Fire Brigade captain of 14 years, John Lardner.

Insight into fire captain's struggles after lives were saved

AS A devastating fire threatened his hometown, Nana Glen Rural Fire Brigade captain of 14 years, John Lardner led his crew to do whatever it took to protect people's lives and homes.

Successfully stopping the fire from wiping out the small town of Nana Glen, John Lardner lives with the mental after effects that torment him on the decisions he made during that time.

At 8.35pm tonight in a special SBS insight program, John Lardner talks about how life has been after the November bushfires.

"The program is about deployments and social aspects on how the fire has affected us mentally," John said.

"It's about the recurring issues under the stress of the fire, social issues, outcomes regarding the fires, changes we could have done and on mental day to day living.

"The post trauma is feeling as though we didn't do enough. We lost houses, the outcomes of the fire on a whole were probably good but not on a personal level.

"You look at those peoples faces who lost everything and it's really hard. I had to talk to my wife and say I'm sorry because I didn't phone her during the fires and she didn't know if I had perished.

John's wife, also a fire service volunteer decided to stay home during this calling to protect their own home and animals in Nana Glen.

Hearing the roar of the fire and knowing where John and the crew were, she knew they were in a dangerous position and after not hearing from John due to cell service, imagined the worst.

"I have trouble living with that, not letting her know I was fine," he said. 

John said this had an impact on his mental state after the fire and constantly wondered how he could have done better.

"It feels like I've failed in some aspects," he said. 

Not the biggest fire he's tackled, it was however, the biggest firefront to threaten the small town that he's seen. 

"We had to hold it off, if we didn't, we would have lost the town. I'm thankful for that," he explained. 

"I feel sorry for the people who lost houses, there's a bit of negativity around why we didn't get to some. It wasn't safe for firefighters to get to some.

GOLDEN GLOBE WINNER: Russell Crowe delivered 19 cheques totalling $105,000 last month to Rural Fire Serve Captain John Lardner after crews saved the family's Nana Glen property.
GOLDEN GLOBE WINNER: Russell Crowe delivered 19 cheques totalling $105,000 last month to Rural Fire Serve Captain John Lardner after crews saved the family's Nana Glen property. Twitter

"Those issues, people don't understand the bigger picture. They think of themselves but don't understand the volume, there will never be enough fire trucks or men to man them. That's just the way life is.

As a last line of defence, John and the crew used Hollywood actor Russell Crowe's property.

"Russell Crowe copped a bit of negativity because we used his property as a last line of defence. If we didn't, it would have taken the whole town. Was it the right thing to do strategically? Yes.

Through the SBS program, John realised he isn't alone in feeling trauma.

"The program gives insight into the anguish fire fighters do suffer post fires and big events.

"We couldn't have attacked this fire any better than we did. Unfortunately there will always be losses and it will always be part of life. It's just hard to get your head around."

Tune into SBS at 8.35pm tonight to hear John's story.