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February 14, 2013

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (13:51): I rise to express my condolences on behalf of the people of Gippsland to the family and friends of the two firefighters who passed away yesterday in the Harrietville fire. The tragic death of 19-year-old Katie Peters from Tallandoon and a second firefighter, whose name has not been released at this stage, is a stark reminder to all of us about the dangers faced by our firefighters. It comes after the death earlier this year of a firefighter from my electorate, a man by the name of Peter Cramer, a popular firefighter who was working in Tasmania during the severe outbreaks which affected that state in January.

It is a horrible reminder of the threats posed to our professional and volunteer firefighters. These two individuals, we understand, were killed when a tree fell on their vehicle. They do a dangerous job and they do it with great courage, with determination, with passion and with care for our community. All three of those firefighters will be sadly missed and they will be fondly remembered by their family members, their friends and their colleagues.

I would like to quote the Australian Workers Union Victorian secretary, Cesar Melhem, who said today:

The DSE firefighters are the SAS of our firefighters. They work in the most horrific conditions imaginable away from the big centres, out in the bush, with very little recognition of their heroic contribution to the state. They have died heroes, which will be no small comfort to those that grieve them.

I think all members of the House will join with me in expressing our condolences to the families and friends of the firefighters who have passed away. To those who are facing battles again this weekend throughout Australia, we wish you safety in the work you do on behalf of our community.

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