Investigators say a fatal house fire at a Manchester Township retirement community appears to have been an accident.

Ocean County prosecutors say 78-year-old Rita Hernandez was found unresponsive early Saturday after emergency responders forced their way into her Leisure Village West home. She was pronounced dead a short time later.

Hernandez's two pet birds and her cat also died in the blaze, which was reported around 6:35 a.m.

Authorities say the fire apparently began along the east wall in the home's kitchen and appears to have been an accident. But the cause of the blaze remains under investigation.

Some nearby homes were briefly evacuated as firefighters fought the blaze, but all of those residents were later allowed to return to their homes.

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