APACHE JUNCTION, AZ - An Apache Junction neighborhood can't believe two of their neighbors are gone.
A total of four people were killed in a house fire Tuesday night.
It began around 9:30 p.m. on the 1400 block of E. Lawson Drive, near the U.S. 60 and Ironwood Drive.
Fire officials say when they arrived just minutes after the 911 call, the home was fully engulfed and their efforts were focused on protecting neighboring homes which were slightly damaged by the intense heat of the fire.
"I could feel the heat coming off of it. The explosion was so high," said April Hoadley, who lives one street over from where the fire happened on Lawson Drive.
Fire officials say the victims are believed to be Robert (Bob) Shell Jr., age 38, Bob's son Joseph Shell, age 11; Robert’s step-brother Ricky Etris, age 32; and Ricky’s daughter, Angel Etris, age 7.
Police say Mr. Shell and his son lived in the home. Ricky Etris and his daughter lived across the street with his step-father Robert Shell Sr.
"Right as soon as I seen [Bob] go inside. Not even a second later it exploded," Hoadley said. "I kept telling him, get back, get back. You can't go in that house, it's going to explode and he didn't listen to me."
Hoadley recalled loud popping noises coming from the home and remembered neighbors screaming because they didn't know how they could help.
Apache Junction fire spokesman Dave Montgomery said Mr. Shell operated a web-based business out of the home which dealt with the legal sales of mostly unique antique rifles and some handguns.
Police say he also had a valid license to reload ammunition and sell the same through his on-line business.
Investigators believe Shell was operating within all local and federal codes that applied to the type of materials he dealt with.
When the fire was out, investigators found the four bodies inside. The bodies of the young victims were just behind the front door.
Montgomery says all victims died as a result of asphyxiation due to the lack of oxygen in the smoke charged atmosphere.
Montgomery said the two children looked like they were on the verge of escaping the home since they were found at the door.
Fire crews believe the children may have gotten confused on how to open the door because of the double layers that opened in opposite directions, Montgomery said.
Montgomery says the investigation of the fire is ongoing.
Fire investigators believe the fire originated in or near the room where supplies of black powder and smokeless powders used in the ammunition reloading process were stored.
Montgomery also said even though several guns were found in the fire debris, investigators do not believe the presence of these guns had any relevance in the origin or cause of the fire.
After the fire, neighbor Madison Tylicki couldn't stop crying.
Tylicki, 10, had a bad feeling her friend and classmate was one the people killed.
She was right.
"It's hard for me because I can't help her. I don't know what to tell her. I don't know what to do," said Yvetter Tylicki, Madison's mother.
The 11-year-old boy killed in the fire attended Superstition Mountain Elementary School, where grief counselors were made available for students.
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