FIRE chiefs have issued renewed warnings about the need for working smoke alarms after a woman died in a kitchen blaze.

The 66-year-old, who has been named locally as Monica Freeburn, was pronounced dead at the scene after being brought out of her house by firefighters on Friday night (July 12).

Fire crews were called to her home on Sycamore Crescent in Trimdon Station, County Durham, at 9.04pm after passersby heard an alarm going off in the house.

Within 20 minutes Mrs Freeburn had been located and removed from the house by four firemen wearing breathing apparatus.

Two fire crews from Peterlee and the retained team based at Wheatley Hill responded to the call.

Robin Turnbull from County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service said the fire, which was in the kitchen, had been very small and only minimal damage was caused to the house.

He said it is too early to speculate about what caused Mrs Freeburn’s death or the fire and an investigation is underway to piece together the series of events.

One line of inquiry is whether or not a cigarette may have played a part in the blaze.

Mr Turnbull issued an appeal to ensure people have working smoking alarms fitted.

He said: “It is vital to have a working smoke alarm to alert you if a fire starts in your home.

“Our team can visit people’s homes, make fire safety checks and install smoke alarms for free.

“One line of inquiry in this case is to see whether or not a working smoke alarm was fitted.

“We were called to the scene by people nearby who heard an alarm, we are still trying to ascertain what alarm that was.”

Neighbours expressed their shock after hearing of the death of Mrs Freeburn, who lived alone.

One said: “She was well known in the area and everyone kept a look out for her.

“It is very sad.”

After the fire, crews spent two days visiting dozens of other houses in the village to check smoke alarms and offer fire safety advice.

For a free fitting and fire safety assessment of your home, contact the fire service on 0191-3324-222.