NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A mother and daughter tragically died after flames took over their Washington Heights apartment just after midnight Sunday.

More than 75 firefighters responded and got the fire under control in about an hour, the FDNY told CBS2’s Cory James.

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For family member Imani James, “It was very sudden and I don’t do very good with loss so …”

The 30-year-old is trying to stay strong, but deep down inside her world is crashing.

Earlier Sunday, she learned her mother and sister died after a fire tore through their apartment on Audubon Avenue.

“It’s very hard for me because both of the people I’ve had my whole life aren’t with me anymore,” Imani James said.


Firefighters said the fire started in the apartment’s kitchen on the 24th floor. Imani James’ 68-year-old mother, Warnette, and 37-year-old sister, Malaika, were trapped inside.

It’s a tragedy that is devastating neighbors.

“It kind of broke my heart,” one said.

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“Very sad,” another said.

“It’s very, very hard on me,” another added.

Imani James said her mom was a smart woman who had jobs as a pharmacist and psychologist. Her sister, she said, was also intelligent and did not let being autistic define her.

“She was like just this very smart person, like when I was kind of a jealous of her. She did really well in school,” Imani James said.

Now, the young woman, who who lost her father 20 years ago, is getting ready to say goodbye to the rest of her immediate family.

That’s something no one is ever prepared to do.

“I’m sad because I’m thinking about all the things my mom won’t see me do,” Imani James said. “I wanted her to see my first movie. I wanted her to see my first book when I published it and now I guess she can’t. She’s my person and I can’t let her down by giving up.”

Investigators said both victims suffered from smoke inhalation and died at the hospital.

No other apartments were damaged.

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At this time, the cause of the fire is under investigation.