real life

To the families of Samuel, Geoffrey and Andrew: we're thinking about you this New Year's Eve.

Three young dads, taken before their time.

Three young firefighters, who have spent their summer protecting us.

Three babies, one not yet born, who will grow up not knowing their dads but hearing of their bravery.

Tonight, on the the last night of 2019, as we prepare to countdown to a new year and a new decade, we will be raising our glasses to you. True heroes, who should be celebrating this milestone alongside us.

Sidenote: The Federal government has now announced compensation for our volunteers. Post continues after video.

Video by Seven

Last night we learnt of Samuel McPaul’s death. He was 28, and his devastated wife Megan was four months pregnant with their first child. They’d only been married 18 months.

His truck was hit by a “fire tornado”and the 10 tonne vehicle flipped on its roof trapping Samuel inside. Two of his firefighting colleagues suffered burns.

They were fighting flames on the Victorian-NSW border – just east of Albury.

Earlier this month, Deputy Captain Geoffrey Keaton, 32, and firefighter Andrew O’Dwyer, 36, died when their fire truck rolled after hitting a fallen tree in Sydney.


Both were from the tight knit Horsley Park Brigade, and were fighting an erratic blaze in the city’s south west. They were driving in dark and smoky conditions and couldn’t even see the trees in front of them.

Both men had 19-month-old children, Harvey Keaton and Charlotte O’Dwyer, who were born within days of each other.


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Geoffrey and Andrew’s families have already lived through Christmas without them, now Megan and her family will experience that hell alongside them as we mark another festivity – New Year’s.

Three wives who shouldn’t be widows in 2020 – who never expected to be doing life alone so suddenly.

Melissa O’Dywer has both men memorialised in her profile picture on Facebook, a post that’s been commented on by 150 of her friends and family, all raw in their grief.

Her husband’s funeral was announced last night. He’ll be farewelled on January 7, 2020.

Geoffrey will be farewelled a few days before his mate on the 2nd.

Most of us have been watching on in horror feeling helpless as the fires destroy more than three million hectares of Australian bush; engulfing homes and businesses.

We’re not putting our lives on the line for other’s livelihoods, we don’t have the training – we didn’t put our hands up to become volunteers in time to be equipped with the skills to make a difference.


But we’ve been watching and cheering you on from the sidelines. Sending our thanks to men like Samuel, Geoffrey and Andrew who have been spending their summer fighting for our country.

And now we mourn and feel your sorrow as well. We feel your shock, we acknowledge your fear and we are just so bloody sorry that this has happened.

December is supposed to be such a happy, festive time of year, but for lots of Australians who’ve been affected by the fires it’s been fraught with danger, and devastation.

For many, most in fact, tonight will still be spent with champagne and a countdown to midnight. Despite the hardships – tonight is the chance to turn over a new leaf, as they say. A chance to give a loved one a New Year kiss or toast a glass to the next decade.

A chance to enjoy something that’s delightfully regular and beautifully simple – the ticking over of time, from one year to the next.

But for the families of Geoffrey, Samuel and Andrew we know you’re not ready to celebrate anything yet, we know it’s too hard and too soon and too much.

We’ll be thinking of you tonight while the world celebrates the beginning of a new year and we’ll be thinking of your hero men.

RIP Andrew, Geoffrey and Samuel.