WITTMANN, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- Two adults and three kids have to stay with relatives after an early morning fire destroyed their Wittmann home Tuesday. While the family made it out safely, their five puppies did not. They vanished in the fire, which might have been deliberately set. Maricopa County Sheriff's Office detectives say it appears to be suspicious. While they did not explain why, arson investigators are looking into it.

The homeowner told Arizona's Family that he "heard a boom" and "saw shadows."

"They threw something in the window," he said. "I yelled for them to get out of the house. ... It happened so fast. It just hurts to see [your house] going down and you can't do anything about it."

MCSO says detectives are sifting through evidence but have not made an arrest.

The fire broke out around 4:30 a.m. Arizona Fire & Medical Authority firefighters responded; teams from Surprise and Glendale helped. Flames had already fully engulfed the house by the time crews arrived.

"I was shocked, yeah, to see the house," said Eleanor Jeftic, who lives down the road. "It's horrible." 

Her friend Edie Duffy, who is staying with her, saw the smoke. 

"I just [heard] sirens and [saw] the fire engines and the smoke billowing up, and I thought someone was in pretty bad trouble," she said.

[WATCH: Neighbors worried about the fire spreading to brush]

The two friends don't know the people who live in the home. 

"[We were] worried that the people might have not gotten out because it happened so early in the morning," Duffy said. "I was just hoping it wasn't going to be a big fire, spread through the desert."

[PHOTOS: From the scene]

"I think about fire all the time as it is. Everything is so dry, and a lot of these homes are like matchboxes," Jeftic added.

The neighborhood is surrounded by desert and accessible only by dirt roads. One of the Arizona Fire & Medical Authority fire trucks got stuck in the mud near the home. A tow truck was called in to pull it out. 

"The incident was already moving along well," said Arizona Fire & Medical Authority Deputy Chief and Fire Marshal Eric Kriwer. "They were a relief crew, and there was no adverse impact on the incident, fortunately." 

In addition to their 2-month-old Chihuahua puppies (the parents made it out safely), the family lost everything they owned in the fire. A relative has set up a GoFundMe account to raise money for them.

Wittmann is a little more than 45 minutes northwest of Phoenix along U.S. 60.

 


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