Arson investigators believe a family's attempt to heat their home may have caused it to go up in flames.

The early morning fire destroyed a house in the 2700 block of Buena Vista and badly damaged a home next door.

A passing VIA bus driver reported the fire at around 5:20 a.m. on Monday. The was a fire so intense, it lit the predawn sky for miles.

San Antonio Fire Department Capt. Stephen Ersch said although firefighters were quick to arrive at the scene, Mother Nature worked against them.

"Another front came through or the wind intensified, but the fire became basically a blowtorch," said Ersch.

That wind caused the fire to spread to the house next door. Caesar Valdillez said he grew up in that house, which is still home to his 84-year-old mother.

"It's going to hit her hard because she put a lot into that home," said Valdillez.

When the fire broke out, no one was home in either of the burned houses. There were no injuries but plenty of heartache.

"It's a shock, of course. You wake up and the home is gone -- the home you grew up in," said Valdillez.

Ersch said he believed the fire started because of an electrical space heater that was left on when the homeowners left for work in the morning.  

With more cold weather ahead, he said the fire should serve as a reminder of the need to take precautions.

"We're again advising people to please turn off your heaters, check your thermostat and any gas heaters to make sure they're inspected and working properly." he said.

Residents of both affected homes will be staying with family members who live nearby.

"The blessing is that everybody's safe. We got to see that everybody is safe, so from there on, we'll try to fix the home as best we can," said Valdillez.

IMAGES: Fire rips through 2 homes

Published On: Jan 06 2014 09:05:03 AM CST

Images of a massive fire that damaged two San Antonio homes west of downtown.

Buena vista fire 9
1 / 11

For a list of recent stories Eileen Gonzales has done, click here.