(CNN)Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday that he would return from his holiday immediately, after two volunteer firefighters died battling wildfires on Thursday.
Morrison has been heavily criticized for taking a pre-Christmas break in Hawaii, as more than 2,500 firefighters across New South Wales state work to contain raging fires. He said Friday that he would "happily" return to deal with the crisis.
He then added, "I don't hold a hose, mate, and I don't sit in a control room. That's the brave people who do that are doing that job. But I know that Australians would want me back at this time."
His return comes after volunteer firefighters Geoffrey Keaton, 32, and Andrew O'Dwyer, 36, died Thursday near the town of Buxton, southwest of Sydney. It's believed their vehicle hit a tree before rolling off the road, said the New South Wales Rural Fire Service in a statement on Friday. Three other firefighters were also injured.
Keaton joined the RFS as a volunteer firefighter in 2006 and was deputy captain of the Horsley Park Rural Fire Brigade in western Sydney. O'Dwyer joined the service in 2003 and was also a member of the Horsley Park brigade. Both men were fathers to young children, according to CNN affiliate Nine News.
"This is an absolutely devastating event in what has already been an incredibly difficult day and fire season," said the RFS statement.