A policewoman burnt in the Middle Park gas explosion graduated just six months ago to her dream job, her family has revealed.
Constable Varli Blake, 32, was one of three police caught in the explosion on Saturday.
Veteran officer Sergeant Tony Scully and First Constable Emma Quick are also in hospital after they were engulfed by the flames in the inner southern Melbourne unit responding to concerned calls about a man who lived there.
Andrew Wood. Photo: Channel Ten news
The families of the three police late on Monday afternoon paid tribute to their loved ones and to locals who helped amid terrible scenes after the explosion.
Constable Blake's parents said the 32-year-old stationed at South Melbourne graduated from the Victoria Police academy in July.
"It has been Varli's dream for over 10 years to become a police officer and make a difference in the community," said her parents Kathy and Tony in a statement released by Victoria Police.
Mitzi Scully, wife of Sergeant Scully, said the father of daughters aged 21 and 22 had been a police officer for 34 years. and worked with Constable Varli at South Melbourne.
"Tony joined Victoria Police when he was 17 years old. I am so proud of what he has achieved in his 34 years in the job. It is typical of Tony that he should get injured in this way - helping a person when they needed help."
The second injured policewoman, First Constable Emma Quick, 28, joined the force in 2011. and was stationed at St Kilda. Her parents Di and Ron Quick said: "Emma loves working for Victoria Police and has always enjoyed the outdoors lifestyle. Prior to joining, she studied at the Australian Catholic University and spent time working in outdoor education. She always loved taking groups of school kids out on adventures - hiking, rafting, and other outdoors adventures."
The families of all three police agreed to a joint statement:
"We would like to send our thanks to Victoria Police, the hospital staff who have worked so hard to help our loved ones, and those kind and caring people who all helped out at the scene. We are all truly grateful.
"This has been a deeply distressing experience for all of us. We are horrified that this has happened, and whilst we are enormously grateful for the many expressions of support and sympathy, more than anything now we ask that the media give us time to come to terms with this tragedy and refrain from reporting any further personal details."
A teary Andrew Wood spoke on Monday of the moment he realised the occupants of the apartment were surrounded by gas.
‘‘I said we’ve got to get out of here and within two steps the whole place was in flame, it blew up.’’
Mr Wood said after the blast he discovered one of the female officers on the balcony.
‘‘She wasn’t in a good way. She was smoking, she was screaming, she was just in incredible pain, asking me how bad her burns were.’’
He downplayed his own bravery in the aftermath of the blast, arguing anyone in his line would have done the same.
‘‘This stuff about hero and whatever, any firefighter would have done it, and any firefighter does do it all the time. They have done it in the past and they will keep doing it.’’
Wife Tahnee Wood wished a hasty recovery to the three police officers who remained in the Alfred Hospital in a serious but stable condition on Monday night.
‘‘It’s going to help us a lot knowing what Andrew’s done and what he’s put himself through. Hopefully they’re going to be well and be okay.’’
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay visited the victims and their families on Monday.
‘‘Most of them are still in a degree of shock and disbelief, it’s difficult and very, very emotional.’’
Victoria Police Association Greg Davies said the blast has sent shockwaves through the force.
‘‘This is the sort of incident that doesn’t just potentially ruins careers, it potentially ruins lives.’’