Richard Tuffo was supposed to be at work when a fire broke out shortly after midnight Wednesday, severely damaging the Carson City home where his family was staying while trying to sell their own home in Reno.
Instead, he called in sick and was the first to hear the smoke alarm. He woke his wife, two children and parents-in-law in time for all to escape without harm.
"I looked out the window and saw a fire. I just started yelling so everyone would wake up," Tuffo recounted. "I thank God, that's all I can say. The Lord took care of us, helped us out."
Battalion chief Stacey Giomi said the fire likely started from a pile of ashes from the fireplace in a pail set adjacent to the garage and near a pile of tires. He said the ashes were probably still warm and ignited the tires. The flame then spread to the garage, destroying it.
Part of the home was damaged by the fire and the rest received smoke and water damage.
"It's pretty devastating," said Sandi Smith, who owns the home with her husband, Dennis. "It'll be a couple of months before we can come back."
In the meantime, family members have offered to house them.
"We'll find them a bed," said Jack Smith, Sandi's uncle.
In a panic, the family members fled the burning house in their pajamas with bare feet.
"You're heart rate speeds up so much, you're just numb," said Kelli Tuffo, Richard's wife.
A neighbor gave them clothes and offered a place to stay.
"We really want to thank them," Kelli Tuffo said.
The family was also thankful for firefighters who battled the blaze.
"The fire department was great," Dennis Smith said. "They got right out here. They deserve a lot of credit."
Once outside, Dennis Smith tried to save the cars. He was able to retrieve a Chevy Suburban but the fire consumed a Chevy Impala and the Tuffos' Isuzu Trooper left in the garage.
The fire also destroyed two all-terrain vehicle quad runners, one belonging to the Smiths and the other to the Tuffos. The Smiths put their boat in storage to make room for the extra quad so it would be safer.
In the move, some mail was not forwarded and the insurance on the quad lapsed in November.
Fire officials estimated the damage between $150,000 and $180,000.
"But it's just stuff," Richard Tuffo said, thankful his parents-in-law, wife and children Sarah, 7, and Casey, 2, were safe.
Tuffo braved smoke and flame to rescue his hunting dogs Annie, a German shorthair pointer, and Charlie, an English setter. The dogs were in kennels in the garage.
"You're in a panic. You don't know what to save, so you've got to save what's alive," Richard Tuffo said. "They're my dogs. You don't want to see a grown man cry, do you?"
Avid hunters, Richard Tuffo and Dennis Smith had ammunition and ingredients to make ammunition stored in the garage.
"It sounded like the Fourth of July here," Richard Tuffo said.
Despite help from one neighbor, others gathered to watch the destruction until police officers ordered them back into their houses.
"When someone's life is going up in flames, it's not a spectator event," Richard Tuffo said.