Michael Maria was due to be honoured at a ceremony in April where his name would be listed alongside hundreds of other emergency service personnel who died in the line of duty.
Coronavirus restrictions meant the families of the 38 men and women waiting to see their loved ones recognised on the National Emergency Memorial Wall will now wait until October for an event to mark the occasion.
Mr Maria died in 2013 after serving as a volunteer firefighter out of Queanbeyan for almost a decade.
He was just 26 years old when his wife Amelia, son Dennis and parents Kevin and Wendy said their goodbyes during a service held at the ANZAC Memorial Chapel, Duntroon.
Four firefighters died protecting Australian people and property during that 2013 season, until this summer it was considered one of the worst.
The Canberra dad wasn't one of the two killed in their vehicle in Harrietville, nor was he one of the volunteers caught in blazes in both Tasmania and WA. Even still, Mr Maria's 2013 death was recognised by the NSW Rural Fire Service as a direct result of his efforts.
The former Royal Australian Air Force officer lost a 10-month battle with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a blood cancer linked to smoke inhalation and exposure to chemicals, like benzene, which are commonly released into the air during bushfires.
At the time Mr Maria was diagnosed with the cancer in July 2012, volunteers in NSW were being issued with P2 masks. One of the manufacturers who supplies them to the Rural Fire Services insists they are called "respirators", but nuances aside, they are the same disposable masks the NSW Rural Fire Service provides its volunteers today.
Nick Hornbuckle is the current captain of Queanbeyan City RFS, the station in which Mr Maria served since 2005. Mr Hornbuckle was also Mr Maria's best friend.
The two had trained in the Australian Defence Force together and while Mr Hornbuckle was posted to Darwin when his friend received the leukemia diagnosis, he and other members of the brigade took care of things for Mr Maria's wife, Amelia, and their son while she slept at his Canberra Hospital bedside.
When Mrs Maria successfully filed for compensation with the NSW Rural Fire Service, she used part of what she received to purchase P3 masks for the men and women at the Queanbeyan brigade.
At around $300 per unit, the full-faced masks are designed to filter out the types of gases and particles Mrs Maria believes her husband should never have been exposed to.
The supplier in Newcastle said it was not uncommon for volunteer firefighters to be purchasing these masks themselves.
"The forestry and Rural Fire Service guys have said it's because they're not being supplied that protection from the organisations," Tim Maddison said.
Mrs Maria said you shouldn't die of cancer because you can't afford a $300 mask.
"It makes me very angry when they say what they're providing now is good enough," Mrs Maria said.
A volunteer herself, the pair met and fell in love while she was working in communications and he was instructing and doing IT work at the Queanbeyan station. An obituary published in The Canberra Times on May 21, 2013 said they were soulmates.
Mr Hornbuckle has fought fires as a volunteer for NSW and Victoria for more than 19 years. He said the benefit of wearing the full-faced masks provided by Mrs Maria when fighting fires around Braidwood this summer was felt immediately by Queanbeyan personnel.
"The issued P2 masks are just rubbish. They don't filter out the organic and non-organic gases that are produced during bushfires," Mr Hornbuckle said.
"In the thick smoke you just can't operate - you get choked up from a gut full of smoke and it's debilitating."
Mr Hornbuckle said it was his understanding that, as well as the additional cost, the full-faced masks were touted as a heart-attack and heat illness risk because less air is filtered through the mask.
"Heart attacks are a huge killer in emergency services," he said. "But we've found the benefits of wearing them far outweigh the risks."
As part of an evaluation into the use of P3 particulate filters in 2019, Fire and Rescue NSW issued almost 400 firefighters from 18 stations the proposed filters.
"Based on both external research and our internal trial it was recommended that the new P3 masks would be able to provide a significantly higher level of protection than the existing P2 masks," a spokesperson said.
As a result of the trial all paid firefighters in NSW will soon be supplied with P3 masks.
ACT paid permanent firefighters are already supplied with P3 masks on all frontline vehicles.
Like in NSW, the ACT volunteers are only supplied with the P2 masks.
Prior to the devastating bushfires this summer, volunteers at the ACT Rural Fire Service began a trial to determine the benefits of the full-faced breathing apparatus.
While the trial concluded at the end of the season, no decision on whether to upgrade the personal protective equipment for volunteers has yet been reached.
Australian National University health professor Sotiris Vardoulakis said protection against gases, as well as particles, was very important for firefighters. He said P2 masks can provide "very efficient filtration of particles" but this doesn't extend to protection from exposure to toxic gases in bushfire smoke.
"There was a misconception that smoke from burning wood or other organic fuels was natural and therefore not harmful to health. There is no consistent scientific evidence supporting this belief," Professor Vardoulaksis said.
"Bushfire smoke also contains carcinogenic chemicals, such as benzene, which are also present in cigarette smoke."
Mrs Maria said while she's hopeful the country is moving in the right direction in terms of providing better protection for its emergency services, the lack of common policy across jurisdictions remains a concern.
In Victoria, paid personnel are provided with masks similar to what Mrs Maria purchased if they're responding to fires and incidents involving hazardous chemicals, but still use P2 masks when responding to incidents where chemicals are not clearly present but small particles like asbestos are.
Victorian volunteers on the firefront are issued with the same disposable P2 masks they've been wearing for 20 years, while its specially trained Country Fire Authority volunteers will use self-contained breathing apparatus to respond to higher exposure incidents.
In Queensland, professional firefighters wear both P2 and P3 masks and volunteers will soon swap their P2 masks for P3 ones following a five-year trial.
A spokesperson for Queensland Fire and Emergency Services said P2 face masks filter 93 per cent of harmful particulates and meet the requirements of the Australian Standards.
The Queensland spokesperson said providing the correct protective gear was"a large and complex program".
No firefighter in the Northern Territory will attend a fire incident wearing a disposable P2 mask, paid or otherwise, while firefighters in South Australia continue to wear disposable P2 masks in some situations.
Whether firefighters are paid or not and which state or territory they serve also impacts whether or not they are presumed eligible for compensation if they develop 12 of the cancers they are deemed most at risk of.
With the worst fire season in Australia's history just behind us, Mrs Maria said she expected more heartache for firefighters and their families as personnel, paid and otherwise, were exposed to longer stints on the frontline than ever before.
She said if they were anything like her husband, they were unlikely to stay home next season.
"There's nothing you could've done to keep him away from fighting fires, he just loved it," Mrs Maria said.
"But nothing will change if nobody stands up and makes these deaths count."