PALM DESERT, Calif. -

Palm Desert resident Gerald Zak says his family is lucky to be alive after a fire left their home in ruins Saturday afternoon.

"Circumstances could have been a lot worse in a lot of different ways," Gerald Zak said. "Fire started in the garage, nobody knew it. Neighbors smashed the door."

Zak and three other people inside at the time were able to get out safely -- as well as the family cat.

Firefighters got on scene within minutes to find the garage fully engulfed in flames.

"They went up on the roof and aggressively tried to stop the fire," Zak said.

Firefighters weren't only battling the blaze -- they also had to deal with triple digit temperatures.

"Due to the time of day and heat we don't want to overheat our firefighters. We did transport one firefighter for heat problems," a Cal Fire firefighter said.

People could see the smoke across the Coachella Valley. It took crews about a half hour to put the fire out.

They kept it from spreading to nearby homes.

"We did lose half the roof, but the rest of the house is still standing. But we do look at it as a total loss because of fire and smoke damage," a Cal Fire firefighter said.

The Red Cross was called in to assist the family - a family that isn't letting this misfortune extinguish their hope.

"We don't put up with our family being victims. We're never victims," Zak said.