19 March 2022

Firies and friends gather to memorialise fallen firefighter Samuel McPaul

| Edwina Mason
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Bronze memorial statue of firefighter

The statue at the centre of the Jingellic memorial pays tribute to the memory of Samuel McPaul, who died in the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires. Photo: NSW Rural Fire Service.

A memorial and avenue of honour have opened in Jingellic to commemorate NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) firefighter Samuel (Sam) McPaul, who was tragically killed during the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires.

On 30 December 2019, Sam was part of the firefighting cohort battling the Green Valley Talmalmo blaze in Jingellic, near the NSW-Victoria border, when fierce winds from the fire overturned the fire truck he was travelling in with two other NSW RFS members.

Sam, aged 28, was tragically killed that day, causing waves of grief across the state from the South Coast town of Broulee where he was a schoolboy, to Wagga where he played basketball for Charles Sturt University and Sam’s adopted town of Holbrook, where he worked as a mechanic, coached basketball and was a highly-respected member of the Morven Rural Fire Brigade.

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Sam was married and was looking forward to becoming a dad in May of the following year.

His son Angus was present on Saturday with mum Megan and the McPaul family when NSW RFS commissioner Rob Rogers, members of the Greater Hume Council, state and federal politicians gathered to unveil the memorial and a 2 km section of River Road that follows the Murray River as an Avenue of Honour to Sam.

The stretch of road, which passes the site where Sam was killed fighting the Green Valley Talmalmo fire, is lined with 100 pin oak trees and includes a wayside stop and shelter with information about Sam and the impact of the fire.

Woman and Man embracing

Samuel McPaul with his wife Megan who was expecting a child at the time of his death in December 2019. Photo: NSW Rural Fire Service.

Mr Rogers said the memorial was a fitting tribute for Sam, who was not just a dedicated firefighter but also a generous, loyal and creative person and a talented basketball player.

“The 2019/20 fire season was like nothing we had seen before and it was firefighters, like Sam, who rose to the challenge to battle these blazes to keep the community safe,” he said.

“As Commissioner of the Service, it is always devastating to lose one of our members in the line of duty. Sam’s loss has had a profound impact on his brigade and the greater NSW RFS community.

“This memorial will be a testament to Samuel’s bravery and the community’s gratitude to our dedicated volunteers.”

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Greater Hume Council Mayor Tony Quinn said the council and community at large wanted to establish this memorial to commemorate Sam and his ultimate sacrifice.

“This memorial is the culmination of a significant project and the result of a community-led response, following the devastating Green Valley fire that sadly took the life of Sam McPaul,” Cr Quinn said.

“The idea to create a memorial and the rest stop came during the early months after the fire was extinguished. First proposed by a NSW RFS volunteer, it was embraced immediately by Jingellic Rural Fire Brigade members, who together brought the idea to Council.

“On behalf of the Greater Hume Council, we sincerely hope that this memorial to Sam will provide comfort to his family and loved ones.”

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