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Volunteer firefighter was an ‘extraordinary hero’

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A guard of honour has been formed to farewell heroic New South Wales volunteer firefighter Andrew O'Dwyer at his funeral service in Sydney on Tuesday.

Firefighter Andrew O’Dwyer with his daughter Charlotte. Picture: FacebookSource:Facebook

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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Charlotte O'Dwyer, with Andrew's wife Melissa receives her fathers helmet after being presented with her father’s service medal by RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons. Picture: Dean Lewins-Pool/Getty Images

Charlotte O'Dwyer, with Andrew's wife Melissa receives her fathers helmet after being presented with her father’s service medal by RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons. Picture: Dean Lewins-Pool/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Charlotte O’Dwyer, wearing her father’s helmet. Picture: Dean Lewins-Pool/Getty Images

Charlotte O’Dwyer, wearing her father’s helmet. Picture: Dean Lewins-Pool/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

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.

Andrew O’Dwyer with his wife Mel and their daughter Charlotte. Picture: Facebook

Andrew O’Dwyer with his wife Mel and their daughter Charlotte. Picture: FacebookSource:Facebook

Prime Minister Scott Morrison hugs Horsley Park RFS captain Darren Nation, the patrol captain of NSW RFS volunteer Andrew O'Dwyer during his funeral service. Picture: Dean Lewins-Pool/Getty Images

Prime Minister Scott Morrison hugs Horsley Park RFS captain Darren Nation, the patrol captain of NSW RFS volunteer Andrew O'Dwyer during his funeral service. Picture: Dean Lewins-Pool/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

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.”

Charlotte O'Dwyer stands in front of her father’s casket wearing his helmet after being presented with her father’s service medal. Picture: Dean Lewins-Pool/Getty Images

Charlotte O'Dwyer stands in front of her father’s casket wearing his helmet after being presented with her father’s service medal. Picture: Dean Lewins-Pool/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

“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.

NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons (L) pinning a medal on Harvey Keaton, the son of Geoffrey Keaton, last week. Picture: NSW RFS

NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons (L) pinning a medal on Harvey Keaton, the son of Geoffrey Keaton, last week. Picture: NSW RFSSource:Supplied

– With AAP

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