Hero farmer saves woman and burning house in KwaZulu-Natal Midlands

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A house in Dargle Valley near Pietermaritzburg that was saved from being burnt to ashes by Jeff Ghersie on Monday.
A house in Dargle Valley near Pietermaritzburg that was saved from being burnt to ashes by Jeff Ghersie on Monday.
Midlands EMS

“I’m no hero, I did what everyone would have done, and I want no recognition.”

These are the words of Jeff Ghersie from the Dargle Valley near Pietermaritzburg who single-handedly saved a woman’s life and her home from burning to ashes.

The 67-year-old farmer from the area in the south of Drakensberg, was going about his daily routine when he came across a badly burnt woman running and “wobbling” about on the road.

At first, Ghersie thought the woman had been attacked but got a big shock when he discovered she had in fact escaped from a burning house.

“I was driving from my farm to another farm that belongs to a friend of mine. Driving on dirt you never see people on that road. It’s a very secluded area, and I just saw this lady wandering, running, and wobbling on the road,” said Ghersie who didn’t want to reveal his surname initially, preferring to be known as “Jeff from Dargle”.

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He humbly told The Witness that he does not want any credit for what he did.

“I got such a fright because I thought she had been attacked. All her clothes were burnt, and she was half naked. Her skin was all burnt terribly. I pulled over and asked her ‘what the hell happened?’. She said her house has blown up,” he said.

Ghersie said he asked the woman what she meant but she seemed “delirious”.

“I asked if she was alright and obviously, she wasn’t. It was just scary, I loaded her into my car, and I knew her house because I once brought her dogs there when they were lost some time ago.

“I drove in because I was worried there might be somebody else in the house, but she said she was alone,” he said.

When Ghersie got to the house which was still burning, the brave retired marine engineer ran inside through the smoke and flames to get a duvet and wrapped it around the woman before telling her to sit still while he started to put out the fire.

“I got hold of my wife (Louise) to get an ambulance to come and help urgently and she did that.”

“There was no hosepipe, but I found a bucket and I tried to put the house fire out using a bucket while looking after her, making sure she was okay.

“Eventually the ambulances arrived, and they stabilised her.”

He said he managed to put the fire out and the woman was removed to hospital by ambulance.

“It was just a crazy ordeal,” he added.

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Ghersie saved the house from the flames but said the furniture and other goods inside were destroyed.

The house in Dargle Valley that was saved from being burnt to ashes by Jeff Ghersie on Monday.

Ghersie, who together with his wife, owns Satori Lodge has had encounters with fire before. He also had firefighting and first aid training during his career as a marine engineer.

“When I was a kid, my dad got burnt badly in a house. It just came back to me that as a kid I saw this, and I couldn’t believe it was happening again,” said Ghersie.

“My father survived but he was in hospital for three years as he was badly burnt. So, I grew up in a hospital basically because I would go visit my dad there.

“I’m scared of nothing. Not fire, I’m wary of fire and not scared of it,” he said.

Ghersie rejected the notion that his actions were heroic. “I had to do this,” he said.

“I suppose anybody would have done the same thing.”

Midlands EMS said the woman sustained 25% total body surface second degree burns, as well as cuts and abrasions from escaping through a glass plate door. Speaking of Ghersie, they said,

"This gentleman was the true hero... Sir, we salute you."
Midlands EMS

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