Injured Duns firefighter on shortlist for courage award

David Melrose at home in Duns
David Melrose at home in Duns

An Inspirational Duns man has been shortlisted for a top award by the Firefighters Charity for his courage and determination.

David Melrose, who was seriously injured when battling a blaze at Eyemouth Golf Club last year, has been named as one of four shortlisted nominees for the 2011 Beneficiary of Courage award, one of the top awards at the charity’s annual Spirit of Fire Awards.

The Firefighters Charity Beneficiary of Courage award, sponsored by Cassidian, is awarded to a member of the Fire Service community who has shown strength of character when injured or when bad fortune has struck.

Loretta Spridgeon, of the Firefighters Charity, said the panel of judges deliberated over a record number of entries this year, and faced an “exceptionally high standard” of nominations to select the finalists for the prestigious Spirit of Fire Awards 2011.

She added: “Like many people who are in David’s position, he has faced an enormous challenge and his courage and determination is truly inspirational.”

The winner will be announced on Friday (November 4) at a glitzy ceremony in London.

David will travel down with his wife Claire, daughter Leigh and son Nathan, to attend the awards evening.

Now in its seventh year, Spirit of Fire, which honours members of the fire and rescue services and the public, by recognising bravery within the fire community and dedication to The Firefighters Charity, attracts chief fire officers and members of the fire community up and down the UK, along with key politicians and celebrity supporters.

The family will also visit Downing Street along with the other nominees for a special reception.

David said: “It’s nice to be nominated - I don’t think what I did was bravery, it was just part of my job.

“This is the kind of thing that only really happens once in a life time, so I’m looking forward to it. I think there’s only myself and another fire station representing the whole of Scotland.”

David was seriously injured in July 2010 when tackling a blaze at Eyemouth Golf Club in his role as a retained fire fighter based at Duns.

The 44-year-old was trying to combat fire in an outbuilding when a beam fell away from the ceiling and landed on him. He was airlifted to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, and later transferred to the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow after it emerged he had suffered spinal damage.

David had sustained a T12 incomplete paraplegic injury, which means he is now unable to use his legs.

The initial recovery process was tough on the young family. With David in a specialist spinal injury hospital in Glasgow, his family had to make the long journey back and forth to see him.

Finally, after seven months in hospital, David was allowed home. Despite many setbacks, David and his family are gradually learning to adapt to his disability, and his determination has proven to be a deciding factor in his recovery.

“One thing we were always told in the hospital by the staff was ‘You will get there’,” David said earlier this year. “At times, you did not believe it, but it is true.”

David has visited the Firefighters Charity’s Jubilee House centre for rehabilitation on a number of occasions, and has made excellent progress with the support of his family.

He has now returned full time to his job at Scottish Borders Council. He is also vice convenor of the Berwickshire Housing Association, and serves on the Duns Football Club committee in his spare time.

“I’ve been back at work full time for four months now,” David said. “It’s a total change to before in every way - the body now tells me that some things are not possible, things that I used to do, and I get tired a lot quicker. But I’m very stubborn and I’m learning to adapt. I tend to have more good days than bad days at the moment, so I’m building my mental stocks in reserve if you can do that.”

The Firefighters Charity will announce all the winners of this year’s Spirit of Fire awards, as well as the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award, tomorrow evening at the East Wintergarden - a stunning events venue in the heart of London’s Canary Wharf.

“The awards ceremony seems very glamorous - that’s the frightening part!” David said. “You can never tell what specific people are going to be there. I’ll have to get practising my gracious losers face!”

The whole family are excited about the trip, but for different reasons, as David explained. “I’m more looking forward to the Downing Street part - we’ll have to see how that goes though as I heard on the news the other night that they don’t have a ramp there! But I’m sure there are arrangements in place,” he said.

“I think the kids are most looking forward to staying at the hotel to be honest!” David added.

The Spirit of Fire awards is supported this year by headline sponsor, Infographics UK Ltd.

The Firefighters Charity is the UK’s leading provider of services aimed at enhancing the quality of life for serving and retired fire service personnel and their families.