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Mother, three children die in east Texas house fire

An off-duty fireman spotted the fire a few blocks away and called for help, but it was too late.

WINONA, Texas — Four people are dead after a house fire in Smith County, Texas, near Starrville. It happened Monday on Devonne Drive in Winona. A man who tried to get inside the home and save the people inside was taken to a Tyler hospital.

The woman inside the home was identified as Britney Stewart, 24. Her children, ages 1, 2 and 5, also died in the fire.

According to officials, an off-duty firefighter from White Oak was stopped by a man who had been trying to put out the fire just after 11 a.m. The firefighter called for help and fire crews from Winona, Jackson Heights, Smith County, Lindale and Chapel Hill raced to the scene.

Fire crews said the flames had engulfed the home and they could not get inside.

"It's been tough, it's been very, very tough," said Smith County Fire Marshal, Jay Brooks. "We haven't had a lot of fatalities recently in Smith County. Any fatality is tough and this one is absolutely devastating to me. It's devastating to the other personnel out here."

The cause of the fire is not yet known.