Four people are homeless after a massive fire damaged three east Ottawa homes Wednesday, with two of those likely unaware as they're away on vacation.

Fire crews said they were called to 21 Florette Street in Gloucester around 6:45 p.m., where smoke and flames could be seen coming from a two-storey home that was under renovation.

“The smoke was coming from the garage . . . big, black-brownish smoke,” said Jeanne Lacasse, who lives on the street. “It didn’t take long before it was all in flames.”

"Oh my goodness it was just an inferno, there's no other word," said Ann Coolen. "It just went and it was so fast, we couldn't believe how quickly."

The fire ended up collapsing the second floor of the worst-hit home, meaning it was declared unsafe for crews to enter.

Dozens of firefighters worked to stop the fire from spreading further than the two other homes while neighbours watched from a distance.

A total of four people are displaced between two homes.

“It was a very aggressive fire attack, the damage speaks for itself in terms of how quickly it spread,” said Ottawa Fire Chief John deHooge.

“It’s not often in daylight hours when people are awake and moving around the community that you see a home that’s completely destroyed by fire.”

Neighbours said the owners of the destroyed home had just gone on vacation to Iles de la Madeleine off Newfoundland and they’ve been trying to contact them.

They said the couple had spent about three years renovating the now-gutted home.

“They’re a very nice couple and they’ve been working hard on their own doing it,” said Calvin Palen. “They’ve had a few contractors in doing the hard stuff.”

"Painstaking work, every day for hours and hours," said Terry Hamilton. "You saw them there, night time and day time, and now to see it all gone . . ."

Damage is estimated at $750,000 to the destroyed home and $100,000 to the two others, with Ontario's fire marshal trying to figure out how it started.

Friends of the vacationing couple said police on their island would be searching to try and find them so they can be told of the fire.

With reports from CTV Ottawa’s Katie Griffin and Claudia Cautillo