RIVERVIEW — Jennifer Christopher was delivering newspapers early Thursday near Raulerson Road when she noticed the flames.
At first she thought it was a bonfire, common in the neighborhood.
Then the blaze intensified.
She drove in front of the home at 13918 Raulerson Road about 3:45 a.m. and discovered the house was on fire.
Christopher knew someone lived there. She delivered the paper to the home on Sundays.
Outside, she found a neighbor in the front yard. The man had banged on the door so hard he cut his hand.
Christopher beeped the horn of her car. She yelled. Her daughter also knocked on the door.
No one answered.
"I know this is horrible," said Christopher, a contractor for the Tampa Bay Times. "But I was listening for screams and I didn't hear any."
The neighbor had already called 911. When firefighters arrived, flames were shooting from the roof of the home. As they controlled the blaze, they discovered a body inside, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue said.
The cause of the fire was unknown late Thursday. An investigation was under way by the Sheriff's Office and fire marshals.
Because of the extent of the damage, determining the cause will be difficult, said Fire Rescue spokesman Capt. Ray Yeakley.
Thursday morning, investigators sifted through the remains of the three-bedroom house. The blackened frames of two cars sat in what was left of the garage. The branches of nearby trees were charred. Only an American flag dangling from a tree in the front yard remained untouched by the flames.
The victim was not identified Thursday, but neighbors said a man whose wife had died of cancer more than a year ago lived in the home.
Wayne Woodard, a neighbor, stood outside and watched investigators come and go from the house. When his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer this year, Woodard said, his neighbor always asked how she was doing.
"All we can do is just pray for him," he said.
Laura C. Morel can be reached at (727) 893-8713 or [email protected]