Thong-clad cop pulls elderly from burning home
HE puts his life on the line every day - except that police rescue and bomb disposal squad commander Brenton Charlton is used to wearing the best protective gear available.
But when he helped an elderly woman escape her blazing home one morning last year, Chief Inspector Charlton had nothing on but his footy shorts and a pair of Havaiana thongs.
It was for this fearless effort the 47-year-old was nominated for a Pride of Australia Award.
"I was on missile lock, just got the job done," he said this week.
Mr Charlton said he was "chuffed" to be nominated but joked he had to turn down an offer from Havaianas to supply thongs to him and his 120-strong elite squad because the police can't accept gifts.
It was 5.45am on August 30 last year when the off-duty cop saw smoke and an orange glow as he drove past a house in Sydenham, in Sydney's inner west.
He hammered on the front windows to try and wake up the occupants as neighbours told him an elderly couple lived there. With the roof ablaze, he shouldered the front door open.
"I got down and crawled to get under the acrid smoke," he said. "I could hear the crackling in the roof and I thought I had better get a move on."
Two tradies pulled up and a nurse out for her morning run stopped to help. Screaming to wake the couple up, Mr Charlton used a phone as a torch and saw a woman, aged in her 80s, wearing a pink dressing gown standing at the end of the hallway.
"I grabbed her and dragged her out," he said.
Her husband escaped through the back of the house with his clothes on fire. Neighbours extinguished the man and the nurse took over checking their airways and calming them.
"I'm chuffed about the Pride of Australia nomination but with a caveat - it wasn't just me, I had members of the community to help me," Mr Charlton said.
"They were fantastic. It is amazing how people who don't know each other form a bond to get the task done.
"The men and women here do brave things every day of the week and it goes unnoticed because it's expected and it's part of their job."
Mr Charlton said nothing was more important than stopping to help a fellow human.
"It could have been my wife, my kids, your mother," the veteran officer said.
"That's how you should look at it. It's quite simple."