Sheryl Barber-Fankhauser, a firefighter with the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) in Victoria, Australia, died on February 26, 2003, when she and two co-workers were swept away by a flash flood. Her body was recovered the following day. The other two firefighters suffered multiple fractures but were expected to recover.
The incident occurred in Alpine National Park, in the northeastern part of Victoria. The crew had been working on hot spots remaining from large wildland fires in the park and adjacent forest, when violent thunderstorms struck. Reports said their vehicle was caught on a bridge by the flash flood; they got out and climbed on top of the rig, but were washed off. The vehicle was found downstream later, buried deep in the mud.
Barber-Fankhauser, who was 43, had been a seasonal firefighter for eight years. The summer before her death, she was involved in a determined stand by a fire crew to save a historic chalet on top of Mt. Buffalo.
Barber-Fankhauser was married and lived in Wandiligong, where she had two horses, a dog, and chickens. Friends described her as "a greenie (environmentalist) from way back" who loved the outdoors and the physical nature of firefighting. "She loved animals, she loved the bush," a neighbor told reporters. "I hope her spirit lives on."
NETWORKING THE WOMEN OF TODAY'S FIREFIGHTING WORLD, AND PROVIDING RESOURCES TO HELP BUILD THE FIRE SERVICE OF THE FUTURE