Investigators are looking into the cause of a fire that seriously damaged two homes in northeast Edmonton Tuesday evening.

A city fire chief says the fire started outside between the two houses, located near 170th Avenue and 76th Street.

Flames then crept up the walls of one house where strong winds helped them jump to a neighbouring home.

The family living in one of the homes was just sitting down to dinner when they smelled smoke. They went outside to investigate and found the wall of their home engulfed in flames.

By the time crews arrived, District Fire chief John Bowers said the fire had made it to the attic spaces in both homes and that siding was melting away.

“Fire crews immediately pulled hose and started pouring the water on it to try to contain the fire to those two houses,” he said.

Bowers said strong winds and heavy insulation in the attic spaces made the fires more difficult to get under control.

Neighbours jumped to action

Several neighbours who spotted the flames early on jumped to action to warn nearby residents.

Rob Trithart was driving down the road when he saw flames shooting out of the side of one of the houses.

“My wife and kids and I … jumped out and started banging on doors, making sure all the other people were out of their homes.”

Neighbours said the owners of the second home are currently in the Philippines.

As of 9 p.m., both fires had been declared under control however, crews were still working to put out hotspots in the attic of the second home.

Officials say the damage to the first home has been estimated to be about $500,000.