Volunteer firefighter farewelled at funeral

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Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons hopes the young daughter of volunteer firefighter Andrew O’Dwyer knows her dad was an “extraordinary hero”.

Mr Fitzsimmons appeared on the Today show this morning, telling hosts Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon that following Mr O’Dwyer’s funeral yesterday, he doesn’t think it “can get any tougher”.

Mr O’Dwyer, 36, died in December when his fire truck rolled while battling the large Green Wattle Creek blaze near the town of Buxton.

A requiem mass was held on Tuesday for the fallen firefighter at Our Lady of Victories in Horsley Park, the suburb where his RFS brigade is based. Hundreds of family, friends and RFS members filled the church as tributes flowed for the young father.

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Mr Fitzsimmons, who choked up during the service as he addressed Mr O’Dwyer’s young daughter Charlotte, said Mr O’Dwyer’s passing was “truly heartbreaking”.

“It’s truly heartbreaking to see such a beautiful young, resilient woman in Mel, with that gorgeous baby Charlotte,” the commissioner said this morning.

“Their lives are ahead of them and they have lost the man that is so important to them in their life, so valuable.”

Mr O’Dwyer’s entire family, as well his RFS family – specifically the Horseshoe Bay brigade – were grieving, he said.

During yesterday’s service, Mr Fitzsimmons said Charlotte should know her father was a selfless and special man, who only left because he was a hero, a sentiment he echoed this morning.

“We owe it to Mel and baby Charlotte to ensure that she remembers and she knows growing up her dad paid the ultimate price, because he was doing something that so many others do, giving so selflessly of themselves for the want of nothing in return but to make a difference in their community,” he said.

“He paid the ultimate price. But he lost. He left us and he left them, simply because he was one of our extraordinary heroes that are out there on the front line.”

“That’s what we owe that little girl, to make sure she grows up knowing that her dad was taken in such tragic circumstances, but for the best of reasons, if I could put it that way.”

Wearing a white dress with her hair in pigtails, the toddler at one stage touched her father’s casket before she wandered up to the pulpit during yesterday’s service.

Errol O’Dwyer said farewelling his son was the hardest thing he ever had to do.

Mr O’Dwyer described his son as a free spirit who lived in the present and whose greatest achievement was his daughter.

Volunteer Geoffrey Keaton, 32, was killed in the same crash and was remembered at a separate service last week.

A heartbreaking photograph of Mr Fitzsimmons pinning a medal on Mr Keaton’s 19-month-old son Harvey made headlines around the globe.

– With AAP

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