LAKELAND, Florida -- Drivers today continued to stop by a house where tragedy struck on Monday night. As the sun started to set and cooler temperatures blanketed the burned out shell of a home at 1410 Tradewinds Avenue, a man picked up a tipped over vase of flowers that someone left in the front door.
Hope Warren, a spokesperson for the Lakeland Fire Department, said firefighters were dispatched last night to the home where a family of six lived, right around the corner from a cemetery.
Mark Mershon, a professor at Polk State College, lives across the street from the family and said of the fire, "It was raging. Raging."
When you look at the images he thought to capture on his camcorder, it's hard to imagine anyone making it out of the inferno alive, but he believes the family of three adults and three children was fast asleep when the home burst into flames.
Photo Gallery: Fatal Lakeland fire
Mershon said, "I heard a boom. I woke up and saw that there were flames over here."
He wasted no time. "I went out and yelled at my brother. We ran over here."
They weren't alone. Several other people, who were complete strangers to the family, happened to be passing by when Mershon said all of them rushed to the back of the burning house. He said, "We all kind of coordinated and tried to get the people out."
They broke windows with their bare hands and ripped away boards from a fence while screaming to the family inside. Mershon said, "It was just unreal."
The Good Samaritans were able to get four family members out alive, but they couldn't get to the grandmother, Conne Tamarit. Her first name, neighbors say, was pronounced "Connie."
Mershon said, "All I can say is that we tried hard."
The flames were so hot and so fierce, he said, they could have easily been killed, too. In the rubble, you could see a scorched kid's bike, and the heat was so intense it looked like the fire literally melted the family's van.
Lakeland firefighters arrived and were able to pull out 8-year-old Justin Guglielmino. He was rushed to the hospital, but didn't survive. Mershon said, "[They were] just a normal family and great kids. It's just a shame. It's really a shame."
Mershon is devastated they couldn't save everyone. He said they're not heroes, either. His family disagrees. His nephew, Brandon Mershon, said, "He went into the first Iraqi war and saved many people from gunshot wounds and ... he's a very good guy. I'm very proud of him."