The two volunteer NSW firefighters who died when a tree fell into the path of their tanker at Wollondilly are fathers of young children born just two days apart.
Geoffrey Keaton, 32, joined the NSW Rural Fire Service in 2006 and was the deputy captain of the Horsley Park Rural Fire Brigade in western Sydney and a former member of the Plumpton Brigade.
Andrew O'Dwyer, 36, joined in 2003 and was also a member of the Horsley Park Brigade.
Geoff and his partner Jess have a son, Harvey, and Andrew has a daughter, Charlotte, with his partner Mel. Both children are 19 months old and were born within two days of each other.
"They are at a loss," NSW RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said of the pair's families. Christmas is just five days away.
"They're in extraordinary shock and natural despair at the enormity of what's confronting them and to try and comprehend the tragedy."
Geoff and Andrew were travelling in a truck convoy near the town of Buxton southwest of Sydney late on Thursday when a tree fell, causing the tanker to roll off the road.
Both were killed. Three other firefighters were injured but managed to free themselves from the wreckage and were later taken to hospital.
In a tragic coincidence, Geoff's father John was working on the mega blaze at Gospers Mountain northwest of Sydney while his son was at the Green Wattle Creek fire.
The Keaton family, Mr Fitzsimmons noted, have a long family tradition of volunteering.
"Both of these men were very well respected, they were very close, they're a close-knit brigade, they're a very community-focused brigade, they work together, socialise together, they're very interactive together," he said.
"Their respective partners and wives shared a lot in common with their camaraderie and connection with the brigade."
The deaths had shocked the NSW RFS "to the core", Mr Fitzsimmons said.
"They're ordinary, everyday individuals - like you and I - that go out and simply want to serve and protect and make a difference in their local community and they don't ever go out in the knowledge that they might not come home from that shift," he said.
Tributes were flowing on the NSW RFS Facebook page on Friday for the two firefighters, while the Horsley Park Rural Fire Brigade page posted a poem ending with "forever in hearts, always in our memories".
"This is heartbreaking," said one post. "The death of 'brothers' on active duty has, and always will, rock me to the core," said another.
In Victoria, the state's firefighting community joined their NSW counterparts in mourning the deaths.
"Our CFA crews have been honoured to fight alongside the RFS these past few months and our deepest sympathies go out to the family, friends and colleagues of these two members," the Country Fire Authority's Steve Warrington said in a statement.
More than 100 Victorian firefighters are helping with the NSW effort.
Australian Associated Press