Fire, drought and floods have been a part of Australia’s history and the recent bushfires have left a trail of destruction, the likes of which have not been seen before.

Whether you were personally affected, know someone who has been affected, or just seen the extraordinary images broadcast across the nation, this disaster has touched all of us.

The loss of lives, property, flora and fauna, the sheer devastation is unimaginable and once again demonstrates our vulnerability to the elements.

But throughout all the tragedy and destruction and in the face of adversity, it has also shown our collective strength and the true calibre of our people.

The toll of loss and destruction could have been much higher had it not been for the incredible efforts of all the emergency services workers – our fire fighters, SES, Police, and countless volunteers that put their lives on the line for weeks.

They are the true heroes in our country.

And we must not forget their families, as for weeks on end, they don’t see their husband, wife, partner, son or daughter.  Their lives are also put on hold while these brave men and women selflessly defend those communities in need.

I extend my condolences to the families of Deputy Captain Geoffrey Keaton and Andrew O’Dwyer of the Horsley Park Fire Brigade and Samuel McPaul of the Culcairn North West Brigade.

These men lost their lives selflessly defending life and properties in some of the most challenging conditions.

It is difficult to comprehend the grief that the Brigade and the families of these three highly respectful men are currently experiencing.

Clearly, it takes a special type of person, with a special kind of courage to be part of the NSW Rural Fire Service. Mr Keaton, Mr O’Dwyer and Mr McPaul have exemplified these qualities. They have made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of our community and it is fitting that they will be remembered as the heroes they truly are.

To everyone who helped during this terrible time, “thank you” doesn’t seem enough to express the gratitude that we all feel.

We are indeed a sunburnt country but we are lucky to have so many inspiring and dedicated people that, without a second thought, undertake the mammoth task of defending lives and property.