You are here

The fireman and the koala

The fireman and the koala

Underneath our tough exterior, there’s something a little softer.

Nothing represents this truth about the Australian spirit more than this incredibly touching and now famous story of David the Fireman and Sam the koala.

It was Black Saturday in rural Victoria - known as Australia's most devastating bush fires.

Hundreds of firefighters were battling the flames that day, but it was the actions of one man - David Tree - that stood out.


Four hundred fires were burning strong.

It was all part of a back burn – a controlled, defensive measure taken to burn out the bush near a community, so that when natural fire does reach the area, there’s nothing left to burn.

It was a strategy to help save lives and homes during the firestorm.

Over 10 billion litres of water were needed to keep the flames controlled.

But it only took a few drops of David’s water to capture the world’s attention. 


David and his crew were following a fire with the truck when he spotted a koala. It was desperate, and in search of help.

David’s instincts kicked in. He ordered the firetruck to stop, fetched his water bottle, and as he had done so many times before, put someone else before himself.

He opened the truck door and remarkably, the koala approached him.

Reluctant at first to take the water, the koala was eventually overcome by thirst and accepted a sip. 

As the koala grabbed David’s hand, one of the other firefighters started filming.

Symbol of hope

The moment of connection was captured and shared, quickly becoming a symbol of hope in a time of deep grief.

And that moment was felt by the entire nation.

Among thousands of heroes that tackle bushfires in Australia each summer, David Tree was remembered that day, whether or not he meant to be.

The koala was later named Sam, because it had been found off Samson Road.

David and Sam made it to the Herald Sun, radio and TV stations – even the Ellen DeGeneres show. 

That’s what Australians do. We help.

And so has NRMA Insurance for almost 100 years.

Because at NRMA Insurance, help is who we are.

See the real story here.

You might also like...