A fire in a St. Paul duplex early Thursday killed a recently widowed woman living in one of the units, authorities and relatives said.

A neighbor reported a fire about 2:20 a.m. at the residence in the 900 block of Carroll Avenue, St. Paul Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard said.

While fire officials had yet to release the victim's name, a relative identified her as Lori Johnson, 49.

Divar Kemp, a cousin, said Johnson lived there for many years with her husband, Wayne, who died in December after a long illness. Johnson was not currently employed but had worked as a nurse and cared for her ailing husband as well as her mother-in-law before him, family members said.

"Lori was a good woman," said Kemp, who is bishop at Life Changers Church in Minneapolis. "She cared about her family. She loved hard."

When firefighters arrived at the scene, a few blocks east of Lexington Parkway and just south of Interstate 94, the first-floor bedroom "was engulfed in flames," said Zaccard, who noted that the house had smoke detectors. "Flames were coming out of the window."

While the blaze was quickly doused and Johnson immediately found, "She died even before we got called," Zaccard said, adding that the fire's cause was under investigation.

"There was nothing more we could do for her."

Johnson was the only occupant on the first floor of the Summit-University-area residence, and no one was upstairs at the time of the fire, the fire marshal said.

The duplex, built in 1908, had been home to various family members for more than 50 years, said Ian Wells, the victim's nephew.

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