The quick thinking of a neighbour helped a family escape a house fire in Penetanguishene as thick black smoke billowed from the garage on Monday morning.

“I was coming out of my shower when the phone rang,” says homeowner Donald Huggins.  “It was my neighbour across the street, and she said there is smoke coming out of your garage.”

Huggins rushed outside to his detached garage to find it fully engulfed in smoke.  That’s when he knew there was trouble.  “I rushed back inside and got my wife and son out.”

The family escaped the home safely, just in time.  Within minutes, flames raged through the garage, charring the vehicle and equipment inside.  The fire also damaged the neighbouring house.

Upon arrival, crews were able to extinguish the blaze quickly.

The focus now shifts to what caused the fire, but investigators say they may never know.

“The garage is a total loss at this point, so it may be very difficult to determine,” says the deputy fire chief.

As the garage smoulders, the family and neighbours can only watch in disbelief.  But Huggins says there is a sense of relief as well, thanks to the quick thinking of a neighbour.

"Thank goodness.  It could have been a lot worse,” he says.

The family will be staying in a hotel as they wait for engineers to assess the damage and give the all clear for them to return home.  

There is no damage estimate at this time.