Cary firefighters were called to the home on Ravenstone Drive in the Coventry Glen subdivision around 12:30 a.m. Officials said the house was struck during the late afternoon storms that rolled through Wednesday, and the fire smoldered for several hours before the actual fire broke out.
"I opened the door and saw the flames coming out of the roof. So I yelled for my husband and he ran across to their house and started ringing their bell and they were coming outside," neighbor Carolyn Richardson said.
"He was banging on the door as we were coming out, letting us know the house was on fire," homeowner Alman Wise said.
Wise said his family barely had enough time to react.
"We saw it was on fire, and within a few minutes, you couldn't breathe in there," he said.
The fast-moving fire started in the attic, tore through the roof, ate through the upstairs and melted the vinyl siding off the house next door.
At first, fire crews had to pull back and fight the flames from above with a ladder truck. Within 15 minutes, the fire was under control, but took its toll on firefighters.
"Whenever there's a fire like this, and they are in their gear, they get hot and exhausted," Division Chief Todd Wright said.
Wise, his wife, Joann, and their 8-year-old twins made it out of the house safely and were able to gather photo albums and other personal belongings.
The homeowners were up late packing for a vacation.
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