A student from Hong Kong spent a half-hour in the basement of a burning house in Markham, Ont., waiting to be rescued and worried that he might be about to die.

Tommy Ho, 19, woke up in the early hours of Monday morning to the sound of his cell phone ringing.

It was a friend calling to tell him that his home was on fire.

"There was a lot of heavy smoke coming to me," Ho said, recalling the scenario he founded himself trapped in.

"It was so scary, it was so terrible."

Firefighters were called to the scene on Eastpine Drive, near Kennedy Road and Denison Street, at 1:19 a.m. The home was fully engulfed in flames.

His friend, Christie Chan, who lives across the street, stayed on the phone with Ho, telling him to hold on.

But Ho became convinced he wasn't going to make it out alive and ended up making a call to his family overseas.

"I make a call to my family, they are in Hong Kong," he said.

Fortunately, firefighters were able to get to the basement of the burning home and get Ho out in time.

He has some burn marks on his feet, but Ho said he feels as if he's been given a second chance.

"I feel amazing, like I’ve got a new life," Ho said.

David Blizzard of Markham Fire and Emergency Services told reporters on Monday afternoon that firefighters' first concern was to get the trapped man out.

"They did what they call a marginal attack, so they sort of fought the fire in that area and sent firefighters down at the same time," he said.

"So they were fighting the fire and doing the rescue simultaneously."

An investigation continues into the cause of the fire.

Ho was among at least three renters living at the home in Markham.

With a report from the CBC's Amanda Margison