Wednesday, 6th April, 2016
By Erica Visser
A local father who risked his life to save an elderly man from a burning garage last week has been praised as a humble hero.
The backyard shed at a Silica Street home caught alight about 8am on Friday, and a man who lived there kept going back into the shed to stop the flames burning his car which was parked inside.
But when he disappeared into the shed before emergency services had a chance to arrive, startled onlookers felt helpless.
“Everything was exploding and we were just waiting for the car to blow up,” said Linda Kennedy, who lives next door with her husband, Robert.
“Things were going off, flames were flaring and I could see the sparks coming off his hair. I said, ‘We’re not going back in there, we can’t.’
“Honestly, the man would’ve died if Michael Walden hadn’t gone in there.”
The elderly man was later taken to hospital and treated for minor burns to his hands and face.
For Mr Walden, who owns Bonanza Street business Flatout Tyres, it was a case of being in the “right place at the right time”.
He was on is way back to work with two employees when they spotted the flames.
“It was pure chance. The neighbours were there but they definitely weren’t about to go in and get old mate out of the shed,” he said.
“Flames came in over the shed door and things were banging and exploding. I went in and grabbed him and pulled his jacket off him because it was smouldering and took him to the front of the premises.”
But the drama didn’t end there for Mr Walden. He was told the man’s wife had returned to the scene to free the couple’s golden Labrador, which was locked in an enclosure behind the shed.
“I ran back around to the bit of yard where the dog was. There was a lawn mower on fire there as well, and I took her back to the front first then I went back a third time for the dog.
“I left just after the paramedics arrived. I was back at the work bench by a quarter to nine.”
While Mr Walden downplayed his efforts, only briefly telling his wife, Tania, he “helped out in a fire”, Mrs Kennedy said his actions were heroic.
“I thought they were both going to burn to death. I said, ‘Michael, you really risked your life and you’ve got a young family.’
“I was absolutely devastated at the thought of what could’ve happened. You hear about these things but to actually stand there and see him do it, I know I couldn’t have.
“He saved a man’s life without having second thoughts about his own.”