Woman dies in Leeds house blaze

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A woman died when her house was engulfed by flames.

Terrified students in a neighbouring house hurled their belongings from a first-floor window as flames poured from the Edwardian terrace house in Moorland Avenue in Woodhouse.

The fire-hit house is thought to have been occupied by the woman, believed to be in her late 50s or early 60s.

Residents named her as Debbie Hall-Popper, who lived alone.

Today the cause of the blaze was still being investigated.

Fire broke out in the three-storey house shortly after 11.30pm.

Two fire crews from Kirkstall Road were first on the scene and were soon joined by back-up crews from Stanningley and Gipton.

When they arrived the fire already had a strong hold.

“Crews were met with a severe and well-developed fire with flames coming out of the first-floor windows,” said Kirkstall Watch Commander Ron Taverner who led the fire-fighting operation.

He said that it had been realised one person was unaccounted for.

The street of about 20 houses comprises through terraces.

Many have been converted for student accommodation, but a few are still used as family homes.

Students in a nearby house were having a bonfire party in their front yard when they heard what sounded like an explosion from the rear of the terrace.

The explosion is believed to have been windows blowing out.

Neuroscience student David Ritchie, 20, from Bristol, and mathematics student Michael Blackburn, 21, from Bradford, live two doors from the house which was on fire.

They ran through their house to see what was happening.

“Someone said ‘come quickly, a house down the road is on fire.’ We all went running out. By that point everyone had dialled 999,” said Mr Blackburn.

“There were two students in the house next door. Their window was right next to the one ablaze with flames coming out. They were throwing their stuff out of the window. We shouted at them to get out,” said Mr Ritchie.

They said flames and smoke began to come through the roof of the house.

Fire crews said they believed one person had been trapped in the building, and that a search had been made for a body.

Watch Commander Taverner said that the house had smoke alarms but the batteries had been removed.

The cause of the fire is being investigated by police and fire brigade.

Tony Burdin, chief executive of Sheffield Mutual Friendly Society

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