Woman dies in early morning fire

HOUSTON Family members of Valerie Ross, 48, held each other, openly weeping in grief in front of the townhome where she died.

Elliott Dirden, the victim's brother-in-law said, "It's a tragedy to our family."

Dirden says his brother-in-law, James Ross, had been cooking in the couple's townhome overnight, but he apparently forgot what he was doing and went back to bed, only to wake to the sound of the smoke alarm and the sight of the flames. Family members say James tried to get Valerie out of the house, but when he jumped to safety from a second story window, she, for some reason, didn't follow.

"A lot of people panic, and she may have panicked," Dirden said. "I don't know."

Firefighters say they had the flames out in 15 minutes, but by the time they found Ross, she was already dead. Arson investigators are looking into the cause of the fire, but firefighters say they believe this was simply a tragic accident that left a man without his wife.

Dirden said, "They cared for each other. They loved each other. They were best of friends."

Firefighters were able to keep the flames from spreading beyond that one townhome.

Family members say Valerie had two grown daughters. One of those young women was treated by paramedics when she was overcome by her grief. Loved ones say Valerie, who had worked as a nurse, will be remembered as a woman with a heart of gold.

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