A 7-year-old boy was killed in a 3-alarm house fire early Wednesday morning in Hampton, New Hampshire.
"We heard a lot of banging and screaming," one man said of the scene.
Neighbors were jolted awake by chaos on the street and intense flames shooting from a small home.
"Oh my God, they were just horizontal out the windows and doors like a blast furnace," said neighbor Joe Meehan. "It was so engulfed by the time I looked out there."
Officials received multiple reports of a house fully engulfed in flames at 32 Thorwald Ave. When they arrived at the scene at 12:43 a.m., fire crews learned that seven of the home's eight occupants were able to escape the burning building.
Firefighters tried several times to rescue the child but were unable to get inside the home due to the fire conditions.
"The fire building was heavily involved and there was no access made to that initial building," said Hampton Fire Capt. Justin Cutting.
The boy's body was found in the home after crews were able to douse the flames.
Elvin Palacios said he used to live at the home with his friend who was injured and hospitalized as a result of the blaze and he also knew the 7-year-old who perished in the fire.
Palacios showed up at the scene Wednesday afternoon devastated to see the aftermath.
"We went to Water Country a few times, we went to Canobie. He would spend the night a few times there. We were all like a family," said Palacios about the boy. "He always put a smile on your face no matter what you did. He was just... you could tell he had a bright future. He was amazing."
Authorities did not release the child's name but said an autopsy will be conducted Thursday.
A woman in the home, identified by a family friend as the child's grandmother, was taken to a hospital because of severe smoke inhalation. She ran a guinea pig sanctuary in the home. Sixteen guinea pigs were rescued, but at least 20 did not survive the fire.
"We went and grabbed all the cages and brought them in the house," said neighbor Nikki Nolan.
Neighbors kept the guinea pigs warm and fed, until workers from the Live and Let Live Farm picked them up for safekeeping.
The home was destroyed, and the deadly blaze jumped to another house, which sustained significant damage, as well.
"With the wind I was scared it was just going to go house to house down the street," one woman said. "Seriously, it was scary."
The fire marshal is looking into what caused the fire and whether all the cages with the guinea pigs may have played a role in making it more difficult for everyone to escape.
The investigation is ongoing.