“We thought it’d be a good idea just to come out and basically say g’day, and say thank you to all the firefighters who’ve been doing such a great job down here in southern NSW,” Paine said.
“Obviously, they’re one small part of a big part of what’s been going on around NSW and Victoria in particular.”
Wingello, a small town of 500 or so on the edge of the Morton National Park, was ripped apart by fire over the weekend.
Residents returned on Monday to find some homes burnt to the ground, while others were completely untouched, encircled by scorched earth.
“While some properties have been lost, there’s been numerous saved,” RFS operations officer Brandon Doyle said.
Mr Doyle said it was great that some local cricket tragics had been able to shake hands and get photos with some of their heroes.
“The boys have been able to get around and see some of the volunteer firefighters and the community themselves, and see some of the great work that’s happened, and unfortunately see first-hand the devastation that fires can have on such a small community.”
Paine said it was important to come down and speak with some people in the community who had “gone through a really tough time”.
“It’s been a really special day for us, to come down and see some of the devastation and see the size of the fires that have come through places like this,” he said.
“When you do see it, you realise the flat-out bravery of our firemen and women that have come out here to try and save lives and save properties.”
The Morton fire is one of several huge fires in southern NSW region that have burnt through a combined 500,000 hectares from just south of Moss Vale down to Moruya.
Matt Bungard is a journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald.