By Mike Hellgren

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The cold proved to be an added challenge for firefighters battling a huge house fire in Roland Park. Investigators are back on the scene trying to determine how the fire started.

Mike Hellgren has new information on what happened when the owner heard the smoke detector go off.

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A friend says he ran to an upstairs bedroom, saw flames and then was able to get out in time. Investigators say it could be several weeks before they can figure out what started the fire.

Flames engulfed a million dollar home in Roland Park and burned more than 40 years of mementos for the retired Johns Hopkins doctor and his wife who own it.

The estate is on the private Saint Georges Road in North Baltimore.

Sky Eye Chopper 13 flew back over what’s left of the nearly 7,700 square foot house. It’s an almost total loss.

Ede Chapman sat with the owner as he watched it burn.

“I know that the number one concern that both he and his wife had was that no other homes caught on fire,” Chapman said. “That’s amazing to me. That’s the grace of God, because most people would be, ‘Can anything be saved?'”

“It really is catastrophic,” she continued. “They’ve lived here since 1970.”

A smoke alarm first alerted the doctor that something was wrong.

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Ice still coats the bushes in front of the house. The owner was downstairs, went to the master bedroom, opened the door and noticed it was in flames. He made it out with just his keys and his wallet.

When firefighters arrived minutes later, the extreme cold proved challenging: one twisted his ankle; hydrants froze; they used flares to identify which hoses worked.

“Sometimes getting the water here is one of the toughest things–the long leads from the hydrant, and then sometimes the hydrants are frozen. So that’s some of the problems we do have,” said Lt. Peter Swann, Baltimore City Fire Department.

Anthony Lee, who lives across the street, was amazed at how fast the home burned.

“We went in the house, came out 10 minutes later and the house was engulfed,” said Lee. “By the grace of God, he got up out of there. Smoke was everywhere. It was just a very bad scene very quickly.”

A lifetime of memories was destroyed in minutes.

A friend says the owner worked with Doctors Without Borders. His wife helped the developmentally disabled at Sheppard Pratt.

Neighbors say it took extra time to turn off a gas line to the home, but a new water line and hydrants installed in the neighborhood last year were critical to the response.

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