CASUALTIES: Tony and Bron Southgate lost several structures on their property. The worst loss was Mr Southgate's art collection.
CASUALTIES: Tony and Bron Southgate lost several structures on their property. The worst loss was Mr Southgate's art collection. Sandra McEwan

Rare and valuable art among the ashes

A PRECIOUS collection of art worth tens of thousands of dollars and then some was one of last week's fire casualties.

Caves Rd residents Tony and Bron Southgate watched on from a safe distance as the inferno raged.

Mr Southgate said they thought they'd escaped the trail of destruction until the wind turned.

"It wasn't really here,” he said.

"The flames were there, the bombers came across and the wind was blowing towards the south and by 7.30pm it died to a blur in the distance.

"Then I got a text to say the wind was turning so be prepared. I got my wife out of bed and got a few things ready and next thing it was just here.

"The wind was howling and there were little bits of ash and dust everywhere.”

By 8.30pm on Friday, the Southgates had evacuated to a friend's place.

They had only moved into the home just over three months ago.

They'd just finished renovating so most of their furniture and belongings was being stored in an outside shed.

The house remained but the shed and other structures "just melted basically”.

"I lost the big shed, a caravan that was under another awning, a wood shed with a mower and everything in it and a green house,” Mr Southgate said.

Being an artist and avid collector, Mr Southgate's fondness for Japanese wood block print had seen him amass a huge collection.

"I suppose the oldest one would have been from 1840,” he said.

"Some of them were very valuable.”

He estimates he lost about 60 works of art, including some by famed artist Martin Sharp.

One Japanese piece was incredibly rare.

"I had one where there's only three in the world,” he said.

"One in a collection in Japan and one in the British Museum catalogue. Had a lot of inquiries about whether that one survived.”

Unfortunately it didn't, along with a substantial wine collection and the bulk of their furniture.

"Those artworks - they were for my grandchildren basically,” he said.

Mr Southgate thanked the community for rallying around he and his wife since the loss.

"Stanthorpe's been very generous in their help and the council has been very supportive in dropping off water every day,” he said.