A 64-year-old woman who had escaped with her son from their burning house in Northport Friday morning died when she went back inside to rescue cats and "was overcome by the fire," police said.
Suffolk County police identified the victim as Ellen Carberry. Her son, John Carberry, 30, was not injured.
"They got out of the house," Det. Lt. Kevin Beyrer, commanding officer of the Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad, said. "They were attempting to use garden hoses to extinguish the flames."
At some point Ellen Carberry rushed back into her Theron Place home to try to rescue two cats, police said. Police said it was unclear whether the cats survived.
Carberry's body was found by firefighters "a couple feet inside the house . . . just inside the door," Beyrer said.
"She was a good-hearted soul . . . a person who did things for other people very quietly," said a relative who asked not to be identified.
Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the fire, which appears to be accidental, Beyrer said.
The fire was reported by a neighbor shortly after 7:30 a.m., police said.
Northport Fire Chief Joe Pansini said firefighters arrived to find the home engulfed.
A man standing on the front lawn told responding volunteers that a woman was inside, the chief said.
Pansini said heavy flames thwarted their efforts to reach Carberry. "Our guys did everything they could," he said.
Volunteers from Northport, Centerport, Kings Park, Greenlawn and Eatons Neck Ambulance responded, along with members of the East Northport Rapid Intervention Team.
Pansini said a Northport firefighter suffered minor injuries and was taken to a hospital for treatment.