POLICE and fire chiefs launched a probe after an elderly woman died in an early-morning blaze at her bungalow.
Firefighters discovered the body of an 83-year-old woman in a heavily smoke-logged bedroom at the property, in Langdale Place, Peterlee around 1am.
Forensic officers from Peterlee CID were called to the scene and a cordon was placed around the property.
A joint investigation by the police and County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue was continuing over the weekend.
The cause of the fire is not thought to be suspicious at this stage, though the investigation is yet to be concluded.
Detective Inspector Dave Cuthbert, of Peterlee CID, said: “An 83-year-old lady lost her life.
“Her next of kin have been contacted.
“Police officers attended the property in the early hours and the bungalow was secure - it is just looking like a tragic accident at this moment in time.
“But until we have a full report from the fire brigade, we cannot confirm what we believe to have been the cause of the fire.”
Colin Bage, head of operations delivery at County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, said: “This tragic loss of life is deeply saddening and our thoughts are with the person’s family and friends.
“At a time like this we are reminding people of the dangers of fire and I appeal to everyone to make sure they have a working smoke alarm fitted in their home.
“If you have elderly relatives or neighbours please visit them now and check their smoke alarm.
“If you have any concerns please contact us and we will carry out a home fire safety visit.”
Two fire crews from Peterlee and one from Wheatley Hill spent two-and-a-half hours at the scene.
Residents are being urged to call the fire and rescue service on (0191) 33242222 or visit www.ddfire.gov.uk for fire safety advice.