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HOUSTON A 72-year-old woman died in a two-alarm fire at her west Houston townhome early Friday, firefighters said.

The fire broke out in the 12000 block of Memorial Drive near Rip Van Winkle Drive shortly before 3 a.m., according to the Houston Fire Department.

Firefighters said heavy flames were already shooting from the home when they arrived.

When the first units arrived on scene they had heavy fire coming out of both windows on the upper floor and fire coming through the doorway and window on the second floor, said Roger Westoff with HFD. The roof was already starting to catch on fire.

The flames were so intense firefighters were concerned that the upstairs floor could come crashing down.

Firefighters went through a neighboring unit to put the fire out. The man in the unit next door said he was deep asleep when the fire broke out. It was a loud knock at the door that got him out of bed.

I jumped up and I came down and the policeman said you better get out, you gotta get out. and I looked next door and I saw it was an inferno, John McMillian said.

Neighbors said the woman killed was a heavy smoker, but a cause for the fire was not immediately determined. She was found sitting near her kitchen.

She was a very independent person and very strong in her beliefs. Really overall just a good person, a good neighbor and a friend to me, Len Mcbride, another neighbor, said.

No other injuries were reported.

The victim s family members reportedly live not far from the townhome.

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