FIFTEEN months after bravely attempting to save his 90-year-old Dover Heights neighbour Marcus Opit during a house fire while off-duty, Jewish senior firefighter Eddie Vaysbakh humbly received a Fire and Rescue NSW Individual Commendation for Courageous Action.
Vaysbakh, based at Bondi Fire Station, told The AJN, “It’s great to get that recognition, but you’ve got to remember the tragic circumstances associated with it.
“So I feel it’s much more about the [Opit] family, and remembering Marcus.
“There’s not a day that goes past for a firefighter in this situation, where you do not stop and think how you’d like a better outcome.”
On his day off on the morning of September 3, 2019, Vaysbakh noticed smoke coming from a two-storey house two doors from him on Napier Street.
‘I couldn’t get to him’: A Jewish firefighter has spoken of his desperate attempts to save 90-year-old Marcus Opit’s life after heroically entering his burning house in Dover Heights while off-duty this week. https://t.co/X3zIJL8u30 pic.twitter.com/JHlzvX2X8S
— Jewish News (@aus_jewishnews) September 5, 2019
Without hesitation or wearing protective equipment, he ran there and, with the help of bystander Adam Lewis, broke a window to gain access.
Vaysbakh ran upstairs twice to try to get to Opit’s bedroom, but was forced back each time by thick smoke and extreme heat.
As fire crews arrived, he informed them where Opit was likely to be.
Moments later they found Opit unconscious and brought him out, but sadly he could not be revived.
Vaysbakh was later told by a fire investigator that the blaze was caused by an electrical fault from a power point.
“If this prevents one death or saves one family home in our community, it will have already been worth it.” That’s how…
“It really drives home the importance for people to be aware that tragedies like this can happen anywhere and at any time, and how fire safety awareness is so important.
“I’d urge people to contact their local fire station to order a Home Fire Safety Audit, which is a free service.”
Vaysbakh, who in June launched Fire and Rescue NSW’s inaugural Burn Wise fire safety guide designed specifically for the Jewish community, said feedback about that has been positive, and the resource is still available to download at www.fire.nsw.gov.au/burnwise.