A Sheffield man has been killed after he was caught up in fierce Australian wildfires.
Thomas Butcher was trying to lead his girlfriend’s horse Cougar to safety when the blaze swept into the farm he was working on in Esperance, southwest Australia.
The 31-year-old was among four people killed by the fires, which were sparked by lightning on Sunday.
Linda Campbell, who owns the farm told The West Australian: “He was fighting the fires with my husband when Dave made the call that our house was in direct danger and he had to get back.
“He then made the decision that he would take the horse and go. If they had turned right at the gate and not left they wouldn’t have died.”
Butcher's girlfriend Leila Vadnjal paid tribute to her “soulmate” and horse on Facebook. She wrote:
“To my baby,
The day I met you I told you that we were soulmates, your reply was sticking your finger up my nose then putting it in my mouth!! You knew it as well.. You were my life.. Although I am feeling lost I have so many memories that we shared together. The love and the laughter. I will remember and cherish our last kiss and touch and the way you would tell me "in a bit" as your way of saying bye. I can smell you in my bed, your towel still hangs in the "wrong spot"!!.. Your chair is still not pushed in from Sunday and I have all the drawings still sitting there. My love for you will stay strong for my life. Have fun with Coug in heaven and I will take care of our Bubba girl. I've told her the news and it was felt heavily. We will go for a ride for you and Cougs. I love you, I miss you, I need you and I want you."
Hundreds of residents were evacuated and schools were closed as firefighters struggled to contain the blazes, which were fanned by days of fierce winds and temperatures soaring above 40 degrees Celsius (more than 100 Fahrenheit).
Conditions had improved by Wednesday, with the hot, dry air moving east and out of the region, the Associated Press reports.
The blaze has burned through 3,000 square kilometers (1,100 square miles) of land, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services said. The area is predominantly agricultural, and is known for its wheat crops.