Volunteer firefighter Samuel McPaul was killed in an horrific freak wind event that saw his 10-tonne firetruck lifted into the air before it rolled over.
Volunteer firefighter Samuel McPaul was killed in an horrific freak wind event that saw his 10-tonne firetruck lifted into the air before it rolled over.

Dad-to-be killed in ‘truly horrific’ freak wind event

A young dad-to-be and volunteer firefighter was killed in a "truly horrific" freak wind event that saw his 10-tonne firetruck lifted into the air before it rolled and killed him and injured others while fighting an out of control blaze near Jingellic on the NSW/Victorian border.

NSW FRS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons this morning identified the volunteer firefighter who lost his life outside Albury as Sam McPaul with Mr Fitzsimmons revealing the 28-year-old had been expecting a baby with his wife Megan.

"He leaves behind a beautiful wife who was pregnant with their first child which was due on the first of May," he said.

Samuel McPaul with wife Megan on their wedding day. Picture: Facebook
Samuel McPaul with wife Megan on their wedding day. Picture: Facebook

"As you would expect the family is grieving and it's been a very difficult night and I don't think the comprehension has set in yet on the enormity of the loss."

He said Mr McPaul was "well respected and admired in local community and brigade".

The McPaul's had been married for just 18 months.

"We've got a completely devastated family and a devastated local community."

Samuel McPaul and wife Megan at Machu Picchu.
Samuel McPaul and wife Megan at Machu Picchu.

Mr Fitzsimmons said the extreme weather event that killed Mr McPaul, which happened just before 6pm, was described by firefighters on the ground as "truly horrific".

"It was a extraordinary wind event, (been described as) a fire tornado... it literally lifted up a 10 or 12 tonne fire truck and.... trapped the people inside, killing Sam."

Sam McPaul died fighting the bushfire at Jingellic.
Sam McPaul died fighting the bushfire at Jingellic.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Mr McPaul died in "very very difficult circumstances".

"We can't express enough our sympathy and condolences," she said.

She said it was a "very tough day" on the South Coast.

"Every fire front is a threat to life, and a threat to life as we know it and this devastating news bought it home last night."

Mr Fitzsimmons said another two colleagues on the truck with Mr McPaul were also injured with one taken to a Melbourne Hospital with serious injuries including burns.

On the same fire ground another two fire fighters suffered burns to their faces and airways with one having to be intubated. They were flown to Concord Hospital.

Samuel McPaul was from the Morven Brigade in the Southern Border Team. Picture: Facebook
Samuel McPaul was from the Morven Brigade in the Southern Border Team. Picture: Facebook

Another volunteer command officer was taken to hospital with bruising and other minor injuries but was released last night.

Mr Fitzsimmons said the conditions overnight were worse than they had expected with properties and communities "heavily impacted".

He said New Years Eve with be a "very volatile day" with no relief for the South Coast until tonight when a southerly sweeps through between 7pm and 9pm.

Mr Fitzsimmons said it was "generally safer to go to the beach" with multiple communities being evacuated.

 

Mr McPaul's death came just 11 days after young fathers Andrew O'Dwyer, 36, and Geoffrey Keaton, 32, were killed when a tree fell on their fire truck at Buxton, south west of Sydney.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was devastated to hear the "terrible news".

"These are testing times. We are so grateful for the courage and dedication of our firefighters," he said on Twitter.

The Green Valley Fire seen west of Walwa and Jingellic. Picture: Vicki Tilders
The Green Valley Fire seen west of Walwa and Jingellic. Picture: Vicki Tilders

Anthony Albanese said it was a "tragic reminder of the very real dangers" that emergency workers face.

"My heart goes out to the firefighter's family, friends and crew mates."

Fires on Monday were raging on both sides of the border between NSW and Victoria and on the outskirts of Melbourne with conditions compared to when the Black Saturday fires struck Victoria in 2009.

The high temperatures and tough fire conditions are expected to arrive in NSW on Tuesday with Penrith forecast to hit a top of 43C.

The RFS warned of a significant spread of fires ­already burning in NSW.

Smoke billows over the outskirts of Walwa in southern NSW as the Green Valley fire threatens nearby towns. Picture: Supplied
Smoke billows over the outskirts of Walwa in southern NSW as the Green Valley fire threatens nearby towns. Picture: Supplied

Several emergency warnings were issued for fires burning in the Bega Valley Shire and the Snowy Mountains region.

A massive 228km stretch of the Princes Highway between Bairnsdale and Genoa on the NSW border was closed as out-of-control blazes raced across Victoria's far east and northeast.

Homes in Melbourne's north were also under threat on Monday night and thousands of holiday-makers were trapped in Lakes Entrance.

A fire rages north of Bairnsdale in Victoria. Picture: Aaron Francis
A fire rages north of Bairnsdale in Victoria. Picture: Aaron Francis

The terrifying conditions were being likened to Black Saturday when 173 died, 414 people were injured and 450,000ha of land was burned.

"[It's] comparable almost to Black Saturday in some ways, if the forecast does eventuate as given to us," East Gippsland fires incident controller Ben Rankin said.

"It is quite an extreme day for us, really the first really bad day that we've had on this group of fires since they started on November 21."

Conditions were described as "incredibly volatile".

 

 

 

 

He leaves behind wife Megan McPaul. Picture: Facebook
He leaves behind wife Megan McPaul. Picture: Facebook
The couple had been married for just 18 months.
The couple had been married for just 18 months.

‘We ask for honesty’: Angst over community centre plans

Premium Content ‘We ask for honesty’: Angst over community centre plans

A DECISION to hand over the keys to the Alstonville community centre to a movie...

BEACH CRISIS: Swallow our pride and ask Gold Coast for help

Premium Content BEACH CRISIS: Swallow our pride and ask Gold Coast for help

Maybe we need some of the Goldy's know-how when it comes to beaches