A heartbroken widower and volunteer firefighter has set about finding his beloved dog, who he lost on New Year’s Eve while out battling catastrophic bushfires in NSW’s southeast.
Ash Graham’s house in Nerrigundah, on the Eurobodalla Nature Coast, also burned to the ground while he was coming to the aid of others, and all just 15 months after losing his wife Mel to cancer.
Despite his incredible losses, Mr Graham, also known as “Smasha”, was quick to jump back into helping save homes that would have otherwise suffered the same fate as his own.
He has since been sleeping in a tent and searching far and wide for his four-legged best friend, Kozi, who somehow escaped from inside the Nerrigundah Fire Station Shed during the brutal New Year’s Eve bushfires.
His local community has rallied behind him and spearheaded a fundraising campaign to help in the rebuild of his house, which contained “all he and Mel had built together”.
Mr Graham had been in the process of a renovation at his property when the home, and all of his tools and equipment, were burned to smithereens, according to the GoFundMe fundraiser.
“I ask and urge all of you reading this to help Ash rebuild the dream he and Mel once had at the property in Nerrigundah,” organiser Ian Peck wrote to the page.
“The money raised will be a huge help towards Ash rebuilding his home and will no doubt include such things as (a) generator, water pumps, water tanks, basic solar panels to charge batteries etc, mowers, whipper snipper, tools, and all of your general household items.”
Mr Peck said the fact his friend began serving his community immediately after losing his home and dog was a true testament to his selfless nature.
“Absolutely gutted after losing his home and his beloved dog Kozi, Ash still dug deep and began serving his community again with the RFS crew. This is a prime example of the type of person he is and why I’m proud to call him a close friend,” he wrote.
So far the page has raised more than $25,000 of its $50,000 goal.
Thousands have also joined the effort online to track down Kozi, sharing a post with information and photos of the missing three-year-old kelpie.
“This is heartbreaking, how anything could survive something like this is hard to imagine, and after all this time it’s looking unlikely he’s made it out, but god I really hope he has survived, this guy has lost enough,” one comment to the post read.
“Keep looking… if he is around he will show up in the coming weeks,” another said.
In a comment later added by the poster, it was announced thermal imaging equipment was going to be used in the search for Kozi by a man who helped find animals after Hurricane Dorian and the California fires.
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