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Fire heroes rescue priceless art

Brandon Fairless and Sam McArthur muck in yesterday to help Tamara Horn and her two-year-old son Lachlan clean up after a fire gutted their home on Saturday.
Brandon Fairless and Sam McArthur muck in yesterday to help Tamara Horn and her two-year-old son Lachlan clean up after a fire gutted their home on Saturday. Warren Lynam

SAM McArthur and his “United Nations” rescued more than Lola the pug and Kiku the shih tzu.

When the 20-year-old rushed inside a burning house on Saturday, he did not know that $100,000 worth of indigenous art waiting to be sold lay in the ceiling.

The Birch Grove home belongs to Australian Aboriginal Desert Art broker Michael Matthews.

Mr Matthews, who is in Alice Springs, works closely with tribal artists and collects paintings which he brings back to be sold at Saltbush Gallery, Mooloolaba.

Many of the artists are tribal elders who have since died.

Fifteen paintings, worth $15,000 each, were saved when Mr McArthur rushed inside the home, saved two family dogs and then began fighting the fire. Some of the paintings were also priceless.

The young hero yesterday met members of the family whose livelihood, the young mum claimed, he saved.

Forty-eight hours on, Mr McArthur and fellow hero of the day, American flatmate Brandon Fairless, were back at the scene helping Mr Matthews’ partner Tamara Horn with the clean-up.

“If it had have been five minutes longer, the fire would have hit the ceiling, caught the insulation and the whole house would have gone up,” Ms Horn said.

Ms Horn and children Tianna, 5, and Lachlan, 2, had been at a children’s birthday party in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.

An electrical fault in reptile tank equipment on standby in the garage caught alight and quickly spread through the room.

A pet water dragon, kept in the tank, had died months before.

Graphic artist student McArthur, Brandon and other “United Nations” flatmates and fellow USC students joined fellow neighbour Gordon Nicholson to fight the fire before emergency services arrived. Mr McArthur also grabbed family pets Lola and Kiku, both three.

Ms Horn said she was amazed at their bravery of the men.

The smoke damage throughout the entire house will keep the family out of their home for several weeks.

The family of four moved in only last year.

Mr McArthur said at the very least his mother was very proud.

“It feels good knowing that you have helped someone just by being at the right place at the right time,” he said.


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