FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- When billowing smoke turns into roaring flames right before Christmas it is hard to keep hope alive.
The owners of a home in Northwest Fresno and their neighbors watched helplessly across the street. Knowing three of four family pets were still inside.
"I only live four houses down, so I ran home got the cat box. So they saved one but I understand there are three more inside the house," said Beverly Contino, neighbor.
By the time crews arrived and got inside the building was already badly damaged. Chief Kerri Donis said her firefighters pulled back and within minutes the roof started to collapse.
"The fire had been churning for some time, likely in the attic based on the photos we've seen."
It was the fourth fire of the day for the busy department, and by far the most destructive.
"Everybody is trying to console them, but how do you console the loss of your pets or the loss of your home. I understand he had a very extensive art collection and it's like they walked out of the house with nothing," said Contino.
Right next door to the devastation is another home still standing. Firefighters said a fire wall between the properties stopped the flames from spreading further.
Even with thousands of gallons of water pouring into the property, and complete destruction, where there is life there is hope. Hidden in the rubble, Fresno firefighters found one of three missing cats-- alive and well.
A Christmas gift so precious not even Santa Claus can compete.