A family of eight and another family of three, including one dog, are without a home after an early-morning fire ripped through a townhouse complex in Kitchener.

“Devastating – before Christmas,” said Michelle Calder, holding back tears. She lives in the unit beneath the one where the fire began.

Fire crews said they were called to 561 Belmont Avenue West for a townhouse complex fire just before 4 a.m.

“First crews that showed up reported heavy smoke and flame visible,” said Platoon Chief Doug Voisin.

He said the fire originated in the kitchen of the second-floor unit and spread up into the attic.

Calder says she woke up around 3 a.m. to her dog scratching at her door.

“She was scratching at both bedroom doors. My son and mine,” said Calder, who praised her 9-year-old German Shephard named Rose.

Calder tried to get back to bed but the dog kept barking. That’s when she noticed her neighbour from the above unit was banging on her door.

“I opened up the door and she pointed up and go ‘fire,fire’ in her unit which is upstairs above,” said Calder.” I looked outside. I looked up to her unit, which is the kitchen and the whole kitchen was on fire.”

She immediately ran back inside and got her boyfriend and son up.

“Whatever we could put on at the time. We all got out of the house safe and sound,” said Calder, holding back tears. “Everybody got out, we all got out safe and sound and while we watched the place go up in flames.”

According to fire officials on scene, eight people, two adults and six children, lived in the unit where the fire originated. Three people were in the unit below, including one dog. All of them are unable to go home and have been displaced. It is unknown when the residents will be able to return.

The Red Cross was also on scene providing blankets and support to the families affected.

Initially 18 people were out of their units and on a Grand River Transit Bus to keep warm.

Fire officials say damage could be upwards of $150,000.

A fire investigator was on scene to assist. The investigators are looking at the unit’s electrical system as a potential cause of the fire.