Quakers Hill Nursing Home Fire: Nurses Recognized for Bravery

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Nurse Judith Watts with grand daughter Tanisha Sonter, 7, at Schofield's fire station on Wednesday. Picture: BOB BARKER.

Nurse Judith Watts with grand daughter Tanisha Sonter, 7, at Schofield's fire station on Wednesday. Picture: BOB BARKER.

FOR Judith Watts the 11 people who she nursed and later died in the Quakers Hill nursing home fire are more than just names.

Ms Watts worked for almost two decades at the nursing home and the 11 who died in the fire on November 18 last year were like family for the Prospect woman.

She was visibly emotional as she and three other nurses were recognised for helping evacuate the 87 residents.

They received NSW Fire and Rescue Commissioner commendations at a ceremony at Schofields fire station last Wednesday.

A total of 58 emergency workers received awards, but it was the first time staff from the home were publicly thanked.

While to her new workplace at a Winston Hills nursing home after working for 17 years at the Hambledon Rd home. her former colleagues said they were still too traumatised to talk publicly, Ms Watts said she appreciated the commendation.

"I'm grateful that it's been recognised finally," Ms Watts said.

Riverstone paramedics Kylie Brown and Roland Jonathan were in the first ambulance at the fire and were among 28 colleagues to receive a NSW Ambulance Commissioner citation.

Mr Jonathan of Glenwood said there was no doubt the nurses saved lives.

"They played a very, very important role because when patients came out of the nursing home some were unable to speak or were in a stressed situation," he said.

"The nurses played a pivotal role in identifying patients and knowing what checks to do. They knew the patients and definitely saved lives."

Ms Brown, who had only been in the job for six months, said she relied heavily on her training to know what to do.

"It was challenging to begin with sorting it all out in the first few minutes and then we just did what we normally do," she said.

"I'm proud to have been part of the situation. It was incredible how everyone worked as team."

Blacktown firefighter station officer David McIlrath, who was one of eight officers to receive an individual citation, said he was hoping to bring closure to the incident.

Mr McIlrath lead his platoon into the worst affected wing of the fire and said all the elderly women he saved died.

"We all love old people and to see those people pass away was a horrific event. Something I'll never forget,'' he said.

He also recognised the role of the home's nurses.

"I have nothing but praise for them. They provided a lot of reassurance and assisted with triaging. They were overwhelmed,'' he said.

Twenty-six firefighters were recognised for their bravery and Mr McIlrath said it was well deserved.

"I have never been more proud of the guys that I work with since that event. I have done overseas deployments, but that day brought everybody together,'' he said.

Quakers Hill constable Rob Johinke, who was one of four police officers to receive a NSW fire and Rescue commissioner citation, said it was a bonus to be recognised and he hoped he never would have to face a similar situation again.

Award recipients


Individual Commendations for Courageous Action


■ Station Officer Brett Johnson (Relief Schofields Fire Station Commander)

■ Station Officer David McIlrath (Blacktown Fire Station Commander)

■ Senior Firefighter Steve Larkins (Schofields Fire Station)

■ Qualified Firefighter Peter Bland (Schofields Fire Station)

■ Senior Firefighter Barry Jones (Blacktown Fire Station)

■ Firefighter Michael Watts-Seale (Blacktown Fire Station)


Commendations for Meritorious Action


■ Senior Firefighter Glen Harris (Schofields Fire Station)

■ Qualified Firefighter Heather Sutton (Blacktown Fire Station)


Unit Commendation for Meritorious Service


■ Riverstone Fire Station ‘Retained' (Jason Taylor, Benjamin Beath, Blake Hadley, Clinton Mackenzie, Michael McGrath, David Richards, Glen Rieser)

■ Kellyville Fire Station ‘B Platoon' (Station Officer Mark Riddell, Senior Firefighter Dean Scifleet, Leading Firefighter Joseph Javillonar, Qualified Firefighter Andrew Moss)

■ Seven Hills Fire Station ‘B Platoon' (Station Officer David Castle, Senior Firefighter Gregory Ball, Qualified Firefighter Brett Kruger, Qualified Firefighter Mark Fisher).

■ FRNSW Metropolitan West Command (Superintendent Alex Scott, Inspector Glenn Launt, Inspector Martin Hofstadler)


Commissioner's Commendation


■ Quakers Hill Police Sergeant Greg Frail

■ Blacktown Police Senior Constable Jay Maleckas

■ Quakers Hill Police Constable Kirsten Grech

■ Quakers Hill Police Constable Robert Johinke

■ Quakers Hill nursing home nurses assistant Judith Watts

■ Quakers Hill nursing home nurses assistant Maria Gratil

■ Quakers Hill nursing home nurses assistant Sidonia Thompson

■ Quakers Hill nursing home nurses assistant Alveena Chand


Ambulance Service of NSW citation awards


■ Paramedics: Roland Jonathon (Parramatta), Andrew Sartor (Concord), Nathan Sheraton (Riverstone), Neil Aldred (Fairfield), Caroline Davy (Bankstown), Katherine Pitt (Bankstown), Adrian Green (Bankstown), Kym Freeman (Blacktown) and Tanya Craig (Tregear)

■ Patient transport officers: Abdul Khaled (Regents Park), Bhim Subba (Regents Park) and Danielle Meskell (St Ives)

■ Station officer: Dominic Wong (Concord)

■ Station officer, intensive care paramedic: Craig Watkins (Parramatta)

■ Zone manager: Ross Chivers (Nepean and Blue Mountains)

■ Communications assistant Susen Cowgill (Sydney Operations)

■ Duty control centre officer: Gary Hendry (Sydney Operations)

■ Interns: Asaeli Williams (Fairfield), Kylie Brown (Riverstone)

■ Intern paramedic: Patrick Ryan (Concord)

■ Intensive care paramedics: Jennifer Campbell (Colyton) and Wayne Barry (Blacktown)

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