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Joanna Drive fire under investigation

RUTLAND, Mass. —Authorities say they are investigating the suspicious death of a woman found in a house fire in Rutland.

Watch report

Firefighters came to the two-story home about 7 a.m. Friday after neighbors reported smoke coming from the structure. The woman was found on the first floor.

Images: Woman found dead in house fire

“In the process of putting the fire out, we did discover one fatality,” Rutland Fire Department Chief Brad Weber said.

Officials with Rutland and state police quickly ruled the death — and fire — suspicious.

Investigators entered the home at about 6 p.m. after a search warrant was issued.

Neighbors told NewsCenter 5 they saw someone leaving the home early Friday morning in a silver Toyota Highlander owned by the woman.

“I couldn’t believe it. I’ve been leaving messages on her cellphone hoping that it wasn’t true,” said friend Kathy Clark.

Clark said the woman is divorced and was planning to move out of the home on Friday.

“(She) was a really awesome person. She’d do anything to help anybody,” Clark said.

Neighbor Chris Roy said he’s glad the woman’s two teen children, who live with their father, weren’t inside.

“That was the first thing — ‘Thank God the kids aren’t even in the house,'” he said.

The victim’s name has not been released.

The Telegram & Gazette reports that police issued a be-on-the-lookout alert for the  Toyota Highlander seen in the area because they want to talk to the driver.