An elderly woman died in a blaze at her first floor flat in South Tyneside earlier today.
The 77-year-old, from Chichester, was found in her living room by fire crews who were called to the scene in the early hours.
The 47-year-old female occupant of the flat below was helped to safety by firefighters and was taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation.
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue's Contol Room received the 999 call at 00.55 and two crews from South Tyneside East Community Fire Station in South Shields and two crews from South Tyneside West Community Fire Station in Hebburn responded.
The crews managed to force their way into the flat and six firefighters wearing breathing apparatus used two hose reels to put out the fire.
Fire officers believe the blaze was caused by smoking materials, but the exact cause is currently under investigation by the fire and rescue service and police teams.
Group Manager Steve Lamb, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: "Our thoughts and sympathies go out to the lady's family and friends at this very sad time.
"It appears that the fire was caused by smoking materials, and I would urge anyone who smokes to always make sure your cigarette is fully extinguished and never leave lit cigarettes, cigars or pipes unattended."
Fire crews will visit the Chichester area to offer residents free home safety checks, including fitting free smoke alarms, and fire safety advice as part of the Service's ongoing safety campaign.