Man found dead in Lakeland house fire

- The cause is still unclear of a house fire that killed one man in his 60s early Wednesday morning.

Officials say there were seven people inside the Lakeland area home, including children, when the fire broke out.

All but 68-year-old Edward McLaughlin made it out.

It's spur-of-the-moment danger like this fatal fire prompting officials to urge people to have a plan to safely escape a fire at their home.

Polk County Fire Rescue Deputy Fire Chief Keith Williams is encouraging people to take note of the tragedy and to make sure to have a plan to escape if a fire sparks.

“Just like in schools you should always practice that,” said Williams. “They don't think about it at home but that is where 95 percent of the fires occur and that's where the bulk of fire fatalities occur is in people's homes.”

Williams says, whatever the plan, it should be practiced on a monthly basis and should include multiple escape routes including doors and windows.

He says the practice runs should also be planned at different times of the day.

“Many people, if you tell them to go out the window of their bedroom, they would look at you like you were funny but that may be the only way to save yourself,” he said.

A death investigation is now underway regarding McLaughlin’s case and an autopsy is scheduled for later this week. But Williams stresses deaths can be avoided if people prepare properly.

“The time to develop the plan is not when the flames are growing in the living room,” said Williams.

McLaughlin’s death marks the sixth deadly fire in Polk County this year and the first since March.

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