Christmas Day House Fire Kills Jacksonville, Florida Couple

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- A couple died in a fire in their home Saturday just hours after hosting a Christmas party.

Firefighters said the victims were a 52-year-old husband and his 40-year-old wife, but didn't release their names pending notification of relatives. Neighbors said the couple had rented the house for about six months.

The victims were found in the bedroom, firefighters said. Authorities haven't yet determined the cause of death, said Jacksonville Sheriff's Office spokesman Ken Jefferson.

Neighbors said they heard a loud thumping noise and called the fire department when they saw flames billowing from the rear of the house.

``It sounded like someone was pounding on their wall,'' neighbor Sean Smith told The Florida Times-Union.

He and two other neighbors knocked down the back window with a ladder, but were overcome by smoke.

``The smoke was overwhelming. We couldn't see a thing,'' Smith said. ``I knew we lost them.''

Neighbors said the victims hosted a party at the house Friday night. The Christmas lights were still on about 6 a.m., Smith said.

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