A Winnipeg family has little left but the clothes in their suitcases after a blaze destroyed their home on Wellington Crescent Sunday morning, causing at least $3 million in damage.

Karl Dornetshuber, his wife and two children were in Edmonton when the fire started in the mansion in the 1000 block of Wellington Crescent shortly after 6 a.m.

Dornetshuber told CBC News a neighbour called him with the terrible news, and now his family is cutting short their vacation to come back to Winnipeg.

"It will take some time for us to believe it, to understand it, because it was our dream house and now it's gone. We can't believe it yet," he said.

“We worked on it for many years. We moved over from Austria for this house, and now it's gone.”

Neighbours said they woke up to the sound of explosions and the sight of thick, black smoke billowing out of the house, which has been known as one of Winnipeg's great estates.

'So surreal,' says neighbour

"I looked over to my right window and sure enough, smoke everywhere — just huge yellow, orange flames," said Mary Furgale, who lives a couple houses away.

"I heard crackling and some small, almost like explosion sounds. It's just so surreal."

Wellington Crescent fire crews

Firefighters remain at the scene of the fire at 1021 Wellington Cres. as of 11 a.m. Sunday. (Ryan Hicks/CBC)

Fire platoon chief Frank Leswick said the house was engulfed in flames when crews arrived.

Firefighters tried to enter the house to search for people, but the flames and heavy smoke forced them out after finishing a scan of the main floor, he said.

The outside of the house has been charred, and the interior is completely gutted.

Fire officials estimate structural damages alone at $3 million. The value of the contents inside the home is currently unknown.

Police say the cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

While the fire has been brought under control, Leswick said crews would remain at the scene for much of Sunday afternoon and evening to extinguish any remaining hot spots.


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