The body of Geraldine Keane, 47, was discovered in her bed in a house she shared with partner Patsy Downes at Daly’s Avenue, Janesboro, Limerick.
Firemen alerted to the blaze shortly after midnight yesterday, found the grandmother in an upstairs room.
Ms Keane, who has a daughter and son from a previous relationship, was pronounced dead at the scene. Her devastated partner said they had been socialising together in a local club before he dropped her home, and returned to a pub, only 10 minutes before the blaze raged through the bedroom.
“She went into bed. I put her into bed,” said Mr Downes. “I took matches off her so she wouldn’t light a cigarette. Obviously, she found a lighter and lit a fag — and she probably fell asleep.”
Paying a tribute to his partner of 11 years, Mr Downes, 67, said: “She was a jovial person. She lived for the singing and dancing. She was a gentle soul.”
It is a double tragedy for Mr Downes, who lost his wife Lilly to breast cancer in 1999.
Ms Keane, described by her neighbours as “a gentle lady”, had been on a night out with her partner at The Pavilion social club prior to her death. They had been celebrating with locals who won an over-40s soccer tournament.
Her body was removed from the house at around 9.30am and an autopsy conducted at University Hospital Limerick.
Her son, 20, had only returned to Limerick at 9am after competing in a baking event in England, when he received the tragic news.
Gardaí are conducting house-to-house enquiries but do not believe the fire was started maliciously. They are still trying to determine the exact cause of the blaze. The fire was largely confined to one bedroom, which was completely gutted.
With tears in his eyes, Mr Downes said: “The garda told me she probably didn’t feel anything — that the smoke would have got to her first.”
Gardaí at Roxboro Road are investigating and can be contacted on 061 214340.