THE town of Cobar stopped yesterday to celebrate and commemorate a man described as a local hero.
Thirty-seven-year-old retained firefighter Daniel “Howie” Howard was killed earlier this month while battling a blaze that destroyed Cobar’s New Occidental Hotel.
About 1500 people attended his funeral at Memorial Park, including NSW Fire and Rescue Commissioner Greg Mullins, NSW Minister for Police and Emergency Services Stuart Ayres and representatives from all of the state’s emergency departments.
In a fitting tribute Mr Howard’s casket was brought to the memorial service on a NSW Fire Brigade truck and through a Guard of Honor comprised of the uniformed services and the Cobar Camels.
To honour the firefighter, a minute of silence was observed at 2pm across all NSW fire stations, where flags were also flown at half mast for the day.
Speaking before the service, Mr Howard’s mother Genevieve said her son was always a larikin and that was how she would remember him.
“I know Daniel would feel extremely proud of all of this. He was very proud of being a friend, he loved it,” she said.
“He was always working for the community, he would have loved this. He was our son. He was the best person in the world to us. I think he would like to be remembered as the community person he was. He was the go to if something went wrong.”
Commissioner Mullins said Mr Howard dedicated himself to saving lives and property.
“In his last moments Howie was surrounded by mates. Mates who did everything possible to try and save him,” he said.
“He was a true local hero in every sense of the word.”
Publican of the New Occidental Hotel Peter Payne said Mr Howard was a “genuine hero”.
“The old joint where he had loved, served and nurtured for many years struck him down. It had no right to be so cruel,” Mr Payne said.
He said family was Mr Howard’s biggest love and he was always available to them.
His commitment to his family was reiterated by Sharon Hull who said Mr Howard brought happiness to everyone who knew him.
“Daniel would be with the family in good times and bad. In the good times he’d be on the dance floor and in the bad times he’d be there to provide his support,” she said.
During his telling of ‘Dan’s Story’ at the funeral, Mr Howard was remembered by relative Charlie Webster as being generous with his time and money, always willing to help his friends and the community.
“Dan’s discussion to join the brigade made many of his family very uneasy. We tried to talk him out of it telling him it wasn’t worth the risk,” Mr Webster said.
“He listened patiently, as he always did, but he didn’t heed. He loved the whole thing and was always willing to do whatever was needed.”
As a great lover of rugby, Mr Payne said Mr Howard played more than 200 games with the Cobar Camels first grade side.
In his eulogy, he said when Mr Howard first began playing he proudly told his family he played reserve.
“A seat on the team esky was enough to make Howie proud as punch,” he said.
Mr Payne said a good tackle was often followed by the comment “that tackle’s out of the Daniel Howard school of tackling”.
Mr Howard was captain of the team for five years, he was involved with buying a bus to take players to away games (where Mr Payne said Mr Howard was a member of the “pants down brigade”) and decided the team should buy a thoroughbred racing camel known as Bruce to be the team mascot.
Mr Howard was laid to rest at the Cobar Cemetery.