Four children died in a house fire Thursday morning in Pensacola, Florida, despite the best efforts of firefighters and one brave neighbor, the Pensacola News Journal reports. The fire was reported around 5:30am local time. Neighbor Marlow Stripling rushed into the house to rescue the children—who ranged in age from 11 months to 11 years old—but was only able to stay inside for a few minutes before the flames forced him out. "I heard them hollering, but I just didn't know where they were at," Stripling says. "I heard them twice, and after the third time I didn't heard them anymore." According to WEAR, firefighters arrived minutes later to find flames shooting from the home's windows.
Despite the flames, firefighters entered the house and found the four children in a back room, WPMI reports. They were removed from the home but couldn't be revived. The home was completely destroyed within 20 minutes, and a family dog was also killed. The children's mother and her 14-year-old daughter escaped the fire unharmed. Investigators haven't determined the fire's cause yet. But the children's aunt blames the family's water heater, which had caught fire Wednesday night. "She called and told me it was on fire, but they put it out," she tells WEAR. "She told me last night she was scared to go to sleep." No smoke detectors were found in the house. (Read more house fire stories.)