JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A family's longtime home on Jacksonville's westside was destroyed early Wednesday by a fire that is now being called an accident.
The city's fire and rescue department was dispatched at approximately 5 a.m. to the 5000 block of Highway Avenue, according to Chief Robin Gainey.
Upon arrival, Gainey reported the fire had already done so much damage, crews focused primarily on keeping it from spreading.
"There was already fire showing from multiple windows and the front porch was already engulfed in fire," he said on scene.
About 20 minutes later, Gainey added, firefighters had the situation under control and began making sure all hot spots were extinguished.
Gainey said the home's owner had no choice but to sit outside and watch his residence turn into ash and debris after escaping safely and calling 911 from next door.
"It's a terrible thing for people when they have to stand and see, especially when it's the house they grew up in. There's a lot of heartache you see in people's eyes," Gainey said.
The man was too devastated to speak to First Coast News on camera, but Gainey said he was in the process of buying the home from his mother who recently passed away.
Worse, fire officials stated it was a kerosene lantern that the man accidentally left on in his bedroom that started the fire. Damage is believed to be so bad, the home likely cannot be saved.
"We know the cause is accidental. It's not arson," Gainey explained.
Neighbor Tessie Ingram heard the flames tearing through the structure and sent her boyfriend over to make sure the man got out okay.
"Fireballs were just shooting off like the Fourth of July," she exclaimed.
As a fire survivor herself, Ingram said she hopes her neighbor bounces back soon.
She said, "They've had a lot of tragedy with the death in their families and stuff like that, so I hope everything works out for them."
The American Red Cross was called to the scene and is reported to be helping the man with his immediate needs.
Firefighters also responded to a house fire early Wednesday in the 6500 block of 103rd Street. The State Fire Marshal's Office is investigating the case as a possible arson.
No one was hurt.