An elderly couple have died in a house fire.
The pair were killed when the fire ripped through the property in Carlton Village, Stockton-On-Tees, in the early hours of Thursday.
A spokesman for Cleveland Fire Brigade said: "Cleveland Fire Brigade were called out to a house fire in Carlton Village, Stockton. It was a severe fire in which there were two fatalities."
The fire brigade's district manager Steve Walton said 20 firefighters were involved in the battle to save the pair and 12 entered the burning house wearing breathing apparatus.
Mr Walton said one of the couple, who were found upstairs, showed signs of life after being recovered from the house but died shortly afterwards despite attempts to resuscitate them both.
The house was gutted with its windows blown out.
Mr Walton said it was very difficult for firefighters to enter the house as the fire had been burning "for some time" and was well established, throwing up toxic gases.
A structural engineer is examining the property to see if it is safe for investigators to begin their examinations.
Cleveland Police said their investigation into the fire is in its very early stages.
Pensioner Joan Richardson, who lives near the property, said the community would pull together. She said: "Everybody is quite shocked. You don't expect this in a small rural village. It is a very friendly village, everybody speaks to everybody, it is a good community. Everybody will pull together whatever the circumstances. People are very caring."