The devastated wife of a young farmer who was found dead with his dad after fighting to save the family farm on New Year’s eve has paid an emotional tribute to her husband.
A father and son, Patrick Salway, 29, was confirmed to have died – along with his father, 63-year-old Robert – following an overnight battle to save their property near the NSW village of Cobargo.
Another man remained missing by Wednesday morning and is feared dead.
Renee Salway, the mother of the young couple’s only son, Harley, is pregnant with her second child.
“I love you now, I love you still, I always have and I always will,” she said in a message to family and friends on Facebook.
“I will see you again Patrick, my best friend.
“Hope you are up there fixing things in the stars tonight. Thank you, everyone, for your concern. We are broken. Goodnight.”
Thousands of families are without power, phone lines or clean water on the NSW south coast after terrifying bushfires ripped through the region, destroying homes and forcing thousands of holidaymakers to shelter on beaches.
Earlier on Tuesday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed the latest tragic death after 2,000 firefighters worked to stop fires burning out of control across the state.
“We can say certainly that the two men at Cobargo are residents of Cobargo,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“A father and son, we believe. Very tragic set of circumstances. Obviously trying to do their best with the fire as it came through in the early hours of the morning.
“The other person that we are trying to get to, west of Narooma, we think that person as well was caught up, trying to defend their property in the early hours of the morning.”
The crew from Fire and Rescue NSW Station 509 Wyoming recorded this video showing the moment their truck was overrun by the bushfire burning South of Nowra. The crew was forced to shelter in their truck as the fire front passed through. #NSWFires #ProtectTheIrreplaceable pic.twitter.com/Hb0yVrefi9
— Fire and Rescue NSW (@FRNSW) December 31, 2019
Australia will deploy Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters and the Navy today to rescue some of the thousands of tourists and residents stranded across south-eastern Victoria by bushfires and unable to escape or drive to safety.
At 6pm on New Year’s Eve there were 120 fires burning in NSW, with 68 uncontained. Eight emergency warnings were in place.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed the evacuation plan on New Year’s Eve after a day of tragedy which saw another newlywed firefighter also confirmed as having lost his life.
Firefighter Sam McPaul, who was expecting his first child in May, died in a freak ‘firestorm’ that flipped his truck 70 km east of Albury.
In a day of devastation, the historic village of Cobargo was largely destroyed after fires raged in the town from 5.30am on Tuesday.
This video sent to me from a property at Coolagolite, east of Cobargo. The Badja Forest fire is currently at Emergency Warning, and has already torn through Cobargo – reports the school and several buildings in the main street lost. Heartbreaking. pic.twitter.com/naBBcoI2QS
— Emily Barton (@emilybarton1211) December 31, 2019
Tourists and residents huddled on the beaches in Batemans Bay, Bermagui and other south coast towns as choking smoke blanketed the region. Some families huddled in swimming pools for safety.
As residents attempted to flee in cars in the early hours, desperate NSW Rural Fire Service volunteers raised fears they were headed into the fire front. They said flames had crossed the highway and were impacting on houses in the town.
Less than an hour later, there were RFS reports of terrified Quamma residents sheltering in the Bega Valley town’s fire station for protection from the “very intense” fires.
Yeah they closed the road not long after we went through. Been checking in with my family down there regularly. Have friends all over the Bega Valley from my time living there. Some in Cobargo and Quamma where the fires have hit really hard. Scary times
— Herbert Hodgson (@herberthodgson) December 31, 2019
“We are defending life only at this stage,’’ an RFS volunteer warned, adding they would not be able to defend all homes in the township.
By 7am, the RFS was working to evacuate multiple children from a house on fire in the town. A volunteer ordered an ambulance, explaining “the kids have no shoes”, and were burning their feet on the road.
Eight fires were burning at emergency level by lunchtime, including the 226,000-hectare Currowan blaze, the 31,000-hectare Clyde Mountain fire near Batemans Bay, and the 26,000-hectare Green Valley fire east of Albury.
By 10am, the sky had turned black in the seaside town of Bermagui. Channel Seven journalist Nat Edwards, who was holidaying in the region, posted images of cars packing the foreshore and residents evacuated to the surf club.
“Never seen anything like this. We are in Bermagui on the south coast … the whole town is taking shelter at the beach,’’ she said.
At times, exhausted firies begged for reinforcements but none were available as the flames raged down the entire NSW south coast, from Bega in the south and beyond to Nowra in the north.
“There are no bloody trucks so we are buggered,’’ an exhausted volunteer broadcast over the RFS radio at 11 am.
By lunchtime, there were unconfirmed reports on RFS radio of up to 40 houses at risk in West Conjola and requests for reinforcements, as residents posted images of huge plumes of smoke in the town.
“Just save life only,” was the RFS radio reply.
“Standby and fight the fire with what you have. Stay safe and get out if you can,’’ another RFS volunteer was told later in the afternoon.