Australia wildfires: Toddler awarded honour in memory of father who died volunteering to fight blaze

Geoffrey Keaton, 32, killed when tree hit fire truck causing it to roll off road

The toddler son of a volunteer firefighter who died tackling Australia’s bushfires has been presented with his father’s medal for bravery at his funeral.

Harvey Keaton, aged 19 months, stood sucking his dummy as his father’s posthumous medal was pinned to his miniature New South Wales Rural Fire Service shirt during Thursday’s service in Buxton, Sydney.

Geoffrey Keaton, 32, deputy captain of Horsley Park Rural Fire Brigade, was killed alongside his colleague Andrew O’Dwyer, 36, when a tree hit their truck, causing it to roll off the road on 19 December.

The volunteers, whose babies were born just two days apart, had been travelling in convoy to the scene of bushfires near the town.

Three other firefighters were also injured during the incident but managed to free themselves from the wreckage.

The medal was presented to Harvey by Shane Fitzsimmons, Commissioner of New South Wales Rural Fire Service.

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison also attended the funeral.

Geoffrey Keaton, 32, deputy captain of Horsley Park Rural Fire Brigade, who was killed on his way to tackle wildfires in New South Wales, Australia, on 19 December, 2019, pictured with his son Harvey.

Andrew O’Dwyer, 36, a volunteer firefighter with Horsley Park Rural Fire Brigade, who was killed on his way to tackle wildfires in New South Wales, Australia, on 19 December, 2019.

Photos released by the fire service showed dozens of firefighters forming a guard of honour as the hearse carrying Mr Keaton’s coffin arrived at Pinegrove Memorial Park.

In another image, Harvey is seen being held by his mother, Mr Keaton’s fiancée Jess Hayes, as they look at a photo of the firefighter placed on top of his coffin.

Volunteer firefighter Samuel McPaul, 28, from Morven Rural Fire Brigade, was also killed while on duty on Monday when the fire truck he was in rolled over in “extreme winds”.

He had been expecting his first child with wife Megan, due in May.

Authorities say 381 homes have been destroyed on the southern coast of New South Wales this week, while 18 people have died since the fires began burning.

At least eight people have died this week in New South Wales and neighbouring Victoria, Australia’s two most-populous states, where more than 200 fires are currently burning.

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