The two-alarm blaze began at one address and spread to another, causing an estimated $2 million worth of destruction early Sunday morning. While a third house was also damaged in the fire, two of the homes on Willow Park Drive near Bramalea Road will have to be completely levelled.
Residents who escaped the close call were nonetheless grateful.
It was around 2:30 a.m. when Ha Eran's dog started barking, rousing her from sleep and leading her to the window where she saw flames climbing the building next door.
"The dog is a hero; she saved us," she said. "I told my husband to call 911 and we ran out."
'Breaking the rules' saved lives
More than a dozen people's lives were saved thanks to the dog, she said.
Next door, an emotional Nayab Ali watched as wrecking crews demolished the house she barely escaped from. Her brother, up late playing video games, alerted his family to the danger.
"I feel lucky to be alive," Nayab said. "I swear if my brother had not been breaking the rules, playing his game, we would not be alive right now."
For now, the families are staying with relatives.
"For us, everything is gone, every single thing. All we have right now is the clothes on our backs," Nayab said.
The Ontario Fire Marshal's office has been called to assist with the investigation. Although the cause of the fire is still unknown, it's believed to have begun at an empty house that was undergoing repairs from a previous fire in March.