Elderly woman dies in 2-alarm townhouse fire in west Houston

HFD: Victim was found sitting at kitchen table

HOUSTON - A 71-year-old woman was found dead after a two-alarm fire at her west Houston townhouse.

Houston firefighters arrived at the home on Memorial Drive and Rip Van Winkle just after 2:30 a.m. Friday.

Officials said the townhouse was fully engulfed with flames, and the fire was so intense, firefighters had to cut through a neighbor's wall to fight the fire.

Firefighters said the victim's family lives in the area. They could only watch as crews fought the fire not knowing what happened to their loved one inside.

Once the fire was out, crews searched the home and found Patricia Cromer's body.

"It doesn't appear she tried to escape the fire.  She was found at the kitchen table sitting," said District Chief Roger Westhoff.

Startled neighbors told Local 2 they awoke to firefighters beating on their doors.

"I came downstairs and the place was an inferno," neighbor John McMillian said.

One neighbor who knew the victim said, "She was a lovely woman. She was up bright and early in the morning. We always saw her. But, unfortunately, based on the smell, she did smoke a lot."

Arson investigators were on scene working to determine if the woman's smoking had anything to do with the fire or if it was something else.

Cromer's home was a total loss. Five other units were damaged but can be repaired, according to firefighters.

The fire is being investigated by the HPD Homicide Division and the HFD Arson Unit. 

Officials said there is no indication foul play was involved in Cromer's death

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