Mark Halsey, Steven “Rangi” Thomas and Chris Perry were driving home when they spotted the fire on the corner of Hamilton and Lawrence Sts.
“After seeing no-one was around we woke up the next-door neighbours to check if anyone lived in the house,” Mr Halsey said.
“When we found out there was, Chris and me ran out to the back and broke out a window and yelled to wake the people up.
“Rangi ended up breaking the big window and we managed to get all six of them [family members] out of the house.”
Mr Halsey said the house was slowly filling with smoke when they went inside.
“We could see the fire and once we found there was people inside it was a case of what we could do to get them out.”
Gore Volunteer Fire Brigade chief fire officer Steve Lee acknowledged the three men.
“If it was not for the members of the public there was a potential for a tragic outcome,” Mr Lee said.
He also thanked those who raised the alarm and contacted the fire service.
There was extensive damage to the former shop at the front of the house and smoke and heat damage to the storage area behind.
The accommodation area was undamaged.
The Gore, Pukerau and Mataura Volunteer Fire Brigades were called to the incident at 4am.
“It was an extremely good effort from the fire brigades to contain the fire to its area of origin,” Mr Lee said.
He urged the public to call 111 if, at any time, they were concerned about a fire.
“People also need to ensure they have working smoke alarms in bedrooms and hallways.”
Police were alerted to the fire at 4am, Sergeant Greg Ballantyne, of Gore, said.
Fire investigators have finished their work at the scene and are continuing to work with police to determine the cause of the fire.
The blaze is being treated as suspicious.
Also on Saturday night, pamphlets were set alight in letter boxes in the Hamilton St area, Sgt Ballantyne said
Anyone with relevant information on any of the fires is asked to contact Gore police on (03) 203-9300. Information on the Gore fires can also be shared anonymously via Crimestoppers on 800 555-111.