February 11, 2009—The rescue of Sam, a badly burned koala, has become a bright spot for many amid the deadly fires that have torn through Australia in recent days.
Volunteer firefighter David Tree came across the koala walking on her scorched paws in a charred forest in Mirboo North, northeast of Melbourne, on February 1. (See more Australia fire pictures.)
"I could see she had sore feet and was in trouble, so I pulled over the fire truck. She just plonked herself down, as if to say, I'm beat," Tree told the Australian newspaper. He offered her a drink from a water bottle, and "the most amazing part was when she grabbed my hand. I will never forget that."
That water likely saved the dehydrated koala's life, said Colleen Wood, who is helping Sam recuperate from second- and third-degree burns at the Mountain Ash Wildlife Center.
A teary-eyed Tree was reunited with Sam on Thursday.
"Who knows if she recognized me or not, but I would like to think so," Tree said.