Four people escaped a house fire unharmed early Thursday in Melville, but frigid conditions made fighting the blaze more challenging, a fire official said.

Firefighters and police responded to the fire at about 3:45 a.m. on Wintergreen Drive near Old Country Road, a police spokeswoman said.

Mike McKeefrey, chief of the Melville Fire Department, said a man and a woman and their two children -- girls under 10 years old -- got out of the house on their own.

McKeefrey said the bitter cold made fighting the blaze difficult because water discharged at the flames quickly turned to ice.

"It was about a half-hour before we got it under control, and we didn't finish completely until about 6 a.m.," McKeefrey said.

"Especially in the back yard, everything was ice," he said. "It was like a skating pond."

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Half the single-story ranch-style house was destroyed by flames, he said, but the other remained intact. "It was amazing how the one side, with the bedrooms, kitchen and garage, weren't badly damaged at all."

Firefighters from five departments needed about 21/2 hours to extinguish the fire completely, McKeefrey said.

In addition to Melville, responding departments included Dix Hills, Huntington Manor, East Farmingdale and Plainview, he said.

There were no injuries, McKeefrey said.

Suffolk County's Arson Squad and the Huntington fire marshal are investigating the cause of the fire, he said.