Firefighters racing to put out a two-alarm fire in a Brooklyn home early Tuesday made a gruesome discovery - a dead man with his hands and feet bound, officials said.
The badly burned victim was found on the first floor of a two-story building on Warwick St. in East New York just before 1 a.m., officials said.
"All I saw was a big orange ball of flame," said stunned neighbor Allison McPherson, 49. "I couldn't believe it."
"Within five seconds the whole house was engulfed in flames," she said.
The blaze, which ignited at 12:20 a.m., quickly spread to a second building on the tree-lined residential block, and it took firefighters more than 30 minutes to put it under control, FDNY officials said.
"I was guessing which home it was in and then I found out it was my building," said Massoud Rahman, 35, who raced home after being told of the inferno.
"Everything is lost, including my books, television, and cash money."
Rahman feared that the dead man was his 42-year-old cousin, who had been living by himself in the sparsely furnished downstairs apartment.
Rahman had been unable to reach him since the fire ignited, he said.
Neighbors said the missing man - whose name is being withheld by the News - kept an eye on the apartment, which did not have a lock on the front door, and would wash himself each morning with a water spout on the building next door.
"I think ... he was watching the house," said a neighbor.
"He's been there some months now. He never bothered anybody."
FDNY fire marshals, who believe the blaze was deliberately set, remained at the charred building past sunrise in an effort to determine how the fire ignited.
Investigators did not immediately have a motive for the deadly act of arson.
Two firefighters suffered minor injuries while battling the blaze and are listed in stable condition at Jamaica Hospital, officials said.