Expat Kiwi truck driver Sam Inu bravely assumed the role of volunteer firefighter as bush fires enveloped the Perth Hills yesterday, disregarding flames as he used a chilly bin to help preserve four of his neighbours' homes.
Inu has been praised as a hero by residents he had not previously met along Parkland Rd in Stoneville on the outskirts of the Western Australia capital. He spent more than 12 hours battling a blaze that killed one man and destroyed at least 46 homes.
The 39-year-old defied a fast-moving fire front as he used a variety of containers to extinguish flames after his garden hose melted.
After securing his own property, Inu went to assist neighbours, including Rob Coumbe four doors away - a homeowner he had never met.
"I decided to bail out with the missus just before the flames got there," Coumbe told Fairfax Media.
"Then Sam and a couple of his boys came down the street and got stuck in with buckets and hoses and virtually saved my place.
"He's [Inu] a big strong boy. He grabbed a big tub we kept the pool equipment in and was throwing that on his shoulder and running around."
Inu helped prevent the fire encroaching further than the patio of Coumbe's home; he also broke through a fence to a neighbouring property to stop flames that burnt out a car reaching a house.
"He just kept going. He was out on his feet but he was still around well after two [in the morning]."
Coumbe said he was astounded by his new friend's resilience in the heat of the moment.
"He used a few buckets but they got burnt out bottoms so he kept on looking for something to fill [including a 55-litre chilly bin] with pool water.
"It was a pretty big effort, it was a pretty fierce fire front. To stay was pretty game anyway but to come up the street and save a couple of other people's houses ... ."
Coumbe planned to show his gratitude by putting on a barbecue for his saviour.
"We'll have to give him a good feed. It was pretty brave."
Inu barely slept before returning to damp down hot spots in his street - and downplayed his involvement as the fires continued to rage in the region about 30 kilometres east of the Perth CBD.
"My garden hose melted so you've got to use what you've got laying around," he said.
"You can't let your home burn. You've got to do what you can. You've gotta defend your castle," Inu told the Perth Now website.
An employee of New Zealand demolition company Busy Bros and a resident in Western Australia for a year, Inu deflected praise to the firefighters and volunteers.
"They're the real heroes. They're the ones who stand and fight," he said.
- Fairfax Media