The partners of two volunteer firefighters who were killed when their firetruck rolled as they battled a raging bushfire south of Sydney in December have spoken out in the wake of the tragedy.
Andrew O'Dwyer and Geoffrey Keaton died near Buxton on December 19 during their fight against the Green Wattle Creek fire which was one of hundreds of fires that have contributed to an unprecedented fire season.
Both men were fathers to children aged under two – Mr O'Dwyer to daughter Charlotte and Mr Keaton to son Harvey.
At a benefit dinner attended by hundreds, including RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons and the firefighter’s former colleagues, their partners, Melissa O’Dwyer and Jess Hayes, revealed their appreciation for the support they’ve received that’s helped them through their unimaginable pain.
“From the bottom of our hearts, thank you very, very much for the love and support, we really appreciate it,” Ms O’Dwyer told Nine News.
“We’ve had the love and support of everyone to help us get through this really hard time.”
Wife reveals firefighter’s eerie text
Mrs O’Dwyer told 60 Minutes in an exclusive interview she did not realise the severity of the fires the day her husband died, and revealed a text she found following the tragedy.
“I did read a message on his phone afterwards that he’d actually said that they were going into hell,” she said.
She also divulged the last words her husband said before bravely fighting the fires.
“He told me he loved me and I told him I loved him back,” she told 60 Minutes.
“It still doesn’t feel real to me. It’s not until I actually really sit down and think he’s not coming back – that’s hard.”
Over $400,000 was raised at the benefit dinner on Saturday with some of the funds being put towards Harvey and Charlotte’s upbringing and education.
“It’s beautiful to know that our kids are going to be looked after,” Ms Hayes said.
Mr O’Dwyer was farewelled at an emotional funeral on January 7, where his young daughter accepted a service medal on her father’s behalf.
RFS Commissioner Fitzsimmons previously said the deaths had shocked the RFS “to the core”.
"They're ordinary, everyday individuals – like you and I – that go out and simply want to serve and protect and make a difference in their local community and they don't ever go out in the knowledge that they might not come home from that shift," he said.
Nearly two months on, the 278,000-hectare fire the two men were fighting continues to burn.
And despite heavy downpours over the weekend over large parts of NSW, 38 other fires are still burning.
There was good news in the state’s south however, where the Currowan Fire was eventually extinguished after 74 days.
It burnt across half a million hectares and destroyed 312 homes.
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