by: Eric Philips Updated:
A $3 million house on Lake Norman is a total loss after a fire started in the office.
The homeowners are on their way home from Cancun.
They had friends staying at the home while they were away on vacation.
Flames and smoke poured out of the Brownstone Drive mansion Tuesday afternoon.
Chopper 9 flew over the fire where firefighters battle the flames from the ground and from the water.
IMAGES: Lake Norman mansion burns
Lake Norman's fire chief said this was one of the biggest fires he has fought in his 26-year career.
"We made entry into it, there was too much fire, we had to back out and regroup," said Lake Norman Fire Chief Andy Weatherman.
Other fire departments were called in to help fight the flames.
According to property records, the nearly $3 million home was built in 2007 and was more than 8,000-square feet.
"It's basically a commercial structure is what it is, size of a commercial structure," Weatherman said.
CHOPPER 9: Iredell Co. mansion goes up in flames
A former Channel 9 intern took photos from across the lake and sent them in to the station.
"It just looked like something had exploded,” said Hannah Hawks, witness. “All the sudden, I realized that it wasn't just a Christmas tree burning in the fire pit, that there was something really wrong.”
Channel 9 learned the homeowners are listed as Jeffrey and Stephanie Arnold and the couple was on vacation in Mexico.
Channel 9 was told family friends were staying at the home. A woman was inside when the fire broke out, but she made it out OK.
"It's bad. They have lost everything in their house. We saved the vehicles, but all the personal belongings and stuff are pretty much gone," Weatherman said.
Neighbor Dan Haighney was at the movies with his son when he started to receive text messages about the fire on his street.
"We didn't know if was ours or not and so we got in our car and sped home and thank God it wasn't ours, but it was one of our neighbors and my God what a terrible sight," Haighney said.
A neighbor told Channel 9 the homeowner had six dogs and cats. They believe all of the dogs were saved but fear the cats might have died in the fire.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.