CLEARWATER — Neighbors of the man killed in a house fire early Monday said he loved spending time in his garage.
They called it Tim Rossewey's "man cave." It's where he worked with tools and watched Tony Stewart compete in NASCAR races. He smoked cigarettes there, even played on a mini drum set.
Rossewey was in the garage when a fire erupted at 2112 Bell Cheer Drive about 5 a.m.
Firefighters could not bring the flames under control until about 6:30 a.m. The fire destroyed the garage, melting its metal door and the front of the family's Toyota Tacoma parked outside. Flames of 15 feet soared through the roof, neighbors said. Smoke blackened and billowed through the rest of the house.
His wife, Kara Rossewey, 39, and son, Jason, 12, escaped without injury.
But people who lived nearby knew the family was grieving.
"I want to be here for her," said Liz Rios, who has lived next door with her husband for 22 years. "The main thing that we're offering her is prayer for her family right now."
Clearwater firefighters sprayed the smoldering garage periodically for the next several hours to keep the fire from re-igniting.
According to the sheriff's office, Kara Rossewey woke up when she heard popping noises. She saw the garage in flames, grabbed her son and ran to the street, where she called 911.
"She couldn't get in to find him (Tim)," said Cindy Knapp, their next-door neighbor.
Knapp went outside when she heard screams and glass breaking. The fire did not damage her home, but her power was shut off.
The American Red Cross was assisting Knapp and the Rosseweys with a place to stay, a spokeswoman said. They also will offer the family mental health counseling.
The cause of the blaze has not been determined, but deputies are investigating.
Neighbors stood in twos and threes outside their yards, watching as exhausted firefighters drank Gatorade and investigators assessed the scene.
Sam Papadimitri, who lives nearby, said the neighborhood would take the loss hard.
"We're like a big family here," he said. "It's going to be a big bummer for our neighborhood."
James Scondras, 18, got an urgent text about the fire from a friend at 5:55 a.m.
"I got that, and of course I ran out here," he said.
Scondras and his brother, Peter, used to hang out with Jason, he said. They swam in the Rosseweys' backyard pool, played football and traded Pokemon cards when they were younger.
"He would hang out with us, and he loved it," said Peter Scondras, 20.
The neighborhood's tragedy extended to Topper Town, a truck accessory depot on U.S. 19 managed by Tim Rossewey.
His parents opened the business 34 years ago, said Ron Carver, a Topper Town employee who met Rossewey 13 years ago.
The plan was to keep the small business in the family. Rossewey wanted to pass the reins to Jason one day, Carver said, marking three generations of family management.
Carver opened the store as usual at 9 a.m. Monday. He knew he couldn't keep it open all day.
His manager, Carver said, was more like a brother.
Follow This Just In on Twitter.