Neighbors in more than half a dozen homes had to make a run for it around 7 Friday morning.
Flames were shooting out from the rooftop of a Palo Alto home -- taking over what began as a small fire in an upstairs bedroom.
"The smoke detector in the hall went off," said house fire victim Diane Pasca.
"I woke up and there was just a bunch of heat and smoke, and I got out of my bed, and I went to the room next to my bedroom, and that's where the fire was," said house fire victim John Beamer.
Twenty-four-year-old John Beamer says he tried to put it out, but was repelled by the heat.
"A piece of desk set was on fire, alright, and that was an inferno," said Beamer.
"He was running around trying to contain it, so we persuaded him to get out because we didn't know how things would develop," said Pasca.
The family all escaped safely, and their neighbors on University Avenue say it was good timing because the fire grew so fast.
"The way they accelerate is unbelievable and within two minutes the smoke was billowing, and within 10 minutes the whole house is on fire, so it's just scary to see what can happen to a house like this," said neighbor Don Spicer.
The Palo Alto fire department arrived shortly after 7 a.m., but crews' efforts were cut short within 20 minutes.
"We were attempting an interior attack, and we had some electrical wires go down, and it pretty much, we had to pull the crews out and go defensive," said Palo Alto Fire Dept. Deputy Chief Roger Bloom.
While much of the grand old home built in 1901 is now destroyed, there is also a safety lesson to share -- the fire is believed to have started from a burning candle.
"I must not have put it out, so you know, just remember that," said Beamer.
The fire has been put out, but the danger of the roof collapsing has prevented crews from entering the home.