SHOCKED neighbours have paid tribute to a pensioner who was found dead in her home after a fire.
It is thought that Jean Winder, 65, was overcome by smoke after her sofa caught fire in the living room of her home in Woodside Road, Huncoat.
The fire, which is believed to have been caused by a discarded cigarette, had smouldered there for several days. But police and fire crews did not discover the body until Saturday, when neighbours alerted them after noticing that the windows of the bungalow were black with soot.
Firefighters have issued a warning after it was revealed that Mrs Winder, who lived alone, did not have a smoke detector fitted.
Leading firefighter John Webster, of Accrington Fire Station, said that police officers discovered the body in the bedroom. He said: "We're not too sure of the time scale but it looks like we found her several days after the fire. We believe discarded smoking materials had been left on the settee, which was very slow-burning, and the fire eventually burned itself out.
"But the house was smoke-logged and unfortunately the lady was overcome by the fumes. If she'd had a smoke detector, it would have at least alerted the neighbours and it could have been a different story."
Mr Webster added that they had been giving out leaflets in the neighbourhood since the tragedy, and he asked that anyone who didn't have a smoke detector should contact the fire station to get one installed.
Sergeant John Kennedy, of Accrington Police, said that a post-mortem would be carried out and Mrs Win-der's sons had been informed.
He said: "It is difficult to determine exactly what has happened but it would appear that the fire started on the settee, which was the only item that was burned. It suffocated itself but the lady was overcome by the fumes. There were no suspicious circumstances."
Neighbour Mary Ellis said that Mrs Winder had lived in the house for around 30 years. Her husband, Clive, had died suddenly many years before and the couple had two sons, Mark and Garth.
She said: "We noticed the blackened windows, which we thought was strange. We called the police because we were concerned and when they investigated they realised the house was full of smoke. It is devastating."
Another neighbour, Patricia Fallows, said that she had known Mrs Winder for 33 years. She added: "She was a lovely neighbour - she kept herself to herself but I used to see her out walking and she would stop and have a word. It is very sad and everyone is shocked at the news. She was such a nice lady."