Emergency officials are calling a couple’s escape from their burning home early Monday morning a close call – the fire destroyed the home, and proved to be a difficult fight for firefighters.

Crews were called to the rural home in Strathcona County just after 4 a.m. Monday morning.

“The home was on fire, to the point it was fully involved and the fire crews had to conduct what’s called a defensive fire,” Deputy Fire Chief Bob Scott said.

About 20 firefighters took more than three hours to contain the blaze – dealing with the flames that had spread deep into the walls and the metal roof.

Closer to mid-day Monday, the century-old farmhouse had been destroyed, and crews remained on the scene putting out hotspots.

A family member of the couple told CTV News the smell of smoke woke up the homeowners before the evacuated the house.

“Anybody that can get out of a building when it is on fire is lucky to be alive, in this case we don’t know that a smoke alarm alerted the residents,” Scott said.

“Thankfully no one was hurt.”

Neighbours called the destruction of the home devastating.

“The grandfather started the property and bought it years and years ago,” Neighbour Stewart Bexson said. “He was actually a County Reeve for Strathcona County, so they’re a historical family in our community.”

Investigators are working to determine what started the fire.

Damage is estimated at $500,000.

With files from Ashley Molnar