Australian woman rushes into burning bush to save distressed koala: 'The woman's a legend'

An Australian grandmother of seven is being hailed a hero after she rushed into a raging bushfire to rescue a screaming koala bear, which had been badly injured by flames.

Footage captured Toni Doherty using the shirt off her own back to rescue a singed koala trapped amid flames near the town of Long Flat in New South Wales, which has been ravaged by fire for weeks. 

In the video, which has been widely shared across social media, Doherty can be seen running through smoke to chase the confused koala, which reportedly ran straight into flames alongside Oxley Highway. 

Spotting the distressed marsupial, Doherty left her vehicle and approached the creature, dousing it with a water bottle before wrapping it in her shirt and running from the bush. 

She and her husband, Peter, then swaddled the koala in a duvet and took it to Port Macquarie Koala Hospital for treatment. 

Although the koala, which has been dubbed "Lewis" after one of Doherty's grandsons, sustained serious injuries, he is said to be improving and is already beginning to snack on eucalyptus leaves, Nine News Australia reports.

Sadly, Lewis may never recover to the point of being released back into the wild and might live out the rest of his days in captivity — but his caretakers note he would likely not be alive if it wasn't for Doherty.

"The woman's a legend," Cheyne Flanagan, director of Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, remarked. "No other word for it."

Currently, 48 fires are burning across New South Wales due to high temperatures and windy conditions, the Associated Press reports. At least 577 homes have been destroyed in the region amid this wildfire season, made worse by an unusually warm and dry winter. 

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