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Despite rescue attempt, blaze at uncle's house kills man, 23

A man died Sunday after an early-morning fire in his uncle's Clearwater home, authorities said.

The victim's name was being withheld by authorities while they searched for relatives in Canada and Ireland. But neighbors, who said they had already notified family members, identified him as Ronan Maughan, 23.

One neighbor, who saw smoke coming from the house before firefighters arrived, said he tried to rescue Maughan but could not get into the house at 1100 Ewing Ave.

"The door wouldn't budge," said Ed Haskins. "I tried kicking it, but it was bolted on the other side."

Officials said the blaze appeared to have started in the kitchen and was not considered suspicious. But the cause had not been determined by Sunday afternoon.

Flames broke out before 7 a.m. in the white, single-story home, said Deputy Chief Dave Kinsey of the Clearwater Fire Department. Maughan's uncle was out of town, and a man who was staying at the home with Maughan was not home.

Haskins, who lives two doors down and is a friend of the home's owner, said his wife, Emma, was first to see the fire up the street and she yelled to him.

He ran to the house and tried unsuccessfully to force open the front door, then returned home to call 911.

Firefighters arrived to find smoke billowing from the roof.

They made a quick search of the home's two bedrooms and found no one, Kinsey said. Several minutes later, they made a second, more thorough search and found the victim collapsed near a phone in an auxiliary room that had been converted into a bedroom and den.

He was unconscious and in cardiac arrest, probably from inhaling smoke, fire officials said.

He was taken to Morton Plant Hospital and pronounced dead about 8 a.m.

The victim may have been trying to reach the phone when he was overcome by smoke, Kinsey said.

Kinsey said the outcome would not have been different even if the victim had been found during the first search.

"I can pretty well say that unequivocally," he said. "The time was so short."