TAMPA — A 44-year-old Tampa man died Wednesday morning in an Ybor City house fire.
Tampa Fire Rescue responded to the fire at 2903 N 16th St. at 10:20 a.m. and found Rafael Sotto Gonzalez inside, dead on the floor.
When firefighters arrived at the single-story wood frame home they saw heavy smoke and flames coming from the north side, said Tampa Fire Rescue spokesman Jason Penny. The fire was under control by 10:34 a.m.
An arson task force is investigating the cause of the fire, which is standard procedure whenever there is a fatality. Police also are investigating the cause of Gonzalez's death.
Gwendolyn Bryant, who has lived down the street from the house for four years, said the blaze began with what sounded like an explosion.
"It was just 'boom,' " Bryant said. "I thought a car had run into a house, and we all went running out to see what happened."
Fred Logan heard the sound from his home on the next street over, he said, and ran to see if friends on the street were okay. Neither of the neighbors knew the man who lived in the house, they said, but he was polite and quiet.
As soon as the fire began, neighbors called 911 and a man tried to break in the door but couldn't, Bryant said. She said she saw an elderly neighbor help a dog out of the house and look to see if anyone was inside.
"Then she was just yelling, 'He's on fire, he's on fire.' That's all I heard," Bryant said.