A family of seven that had gathered for Christmas celebrations fled into sub-freezing temperatures yesterday when fire broke out in the gargage of their Fairfax County house. The blaze gutted most of the three-story wood-frame home and two automobiles -- but firefighters saved the family's Christmas gifts and turkey.

"We're going over to my daughter's house and open the presents," said retired Air Force Col. Leo Duggan, 58, owner of the ruined house at 10509 Acacia Lane. "We're going to put the turkey back in the oven and have a merry Christmas."

Duggan said he was in his bedroom tucking $100 bills into gift envelopes for his children when he first noticed smoke. Flames were spreading quickly in his home's gargage, feeding on gasoline from two cars inside, a 1980 Thunderbird and a 1974 Mustang.

Together with two daughters, a son, a son-in-law and two grandchildren, who had been on the verge of unwrapping presents, he was forced to abandon the house and wait for help.

Firefighters reacing the scene shortly after noon found the flames had already entered a second-story bedroom. Draping tarpaulins to protect furniture in the house the blaze under control without serious mishap. Damage was estimated at $135,000, including the two cars.

Investigators said the fire began in a plastic trash can in Duggan's garage.

"I was being fussy this morning and decided to clean the fireplace," Duggan said. "I put the ashes into a trashcan, which happened to be a plastic trashcan."