PLEASANT HILL -- A woman and man who died in an apartment fire Tuesday morning were identified Wednesday.
Samantha Mooney, 34, who worked as a waitress at a Walnut Creek restaurant, died along with her boyfriend Jason Robello, 31, in the blaze at 8 Donegal Court near Pleasant Hill road. The fire was reported about 3:30 a.m., firefighters said.
The blaze was under control about 35 minutes later, but firefighters were not able to rescue the couple, nor a cat that died in the apartment as well.
Mooney had been a passionate writer with a wide range of interests and ambitions, said her friend, Danielle Deemer, who worked with her at Massimo Ristorante in Walnut Creek.
Deemer said she and Mooney met working at another restaurant about nine years ago and became best friends.
"She was very articulate," Deemer said. "She'd read me her essays all the time on the phone, like, 'Does this sound right?'"
Mooney was also drawn to the outdoors, and had just returned from a trip to Yosemite, Deemer said.
In an trip to see the Grand Canyon, Mooney had used the romance and beauty of the occasion to help her quit smoking, Deemer added.
Mooney was kindhearted, Deemer said, volunteering to feed homeless people and adopting pets from shelters.
She resided at the Pleasant Hill apartment for about three years, taking pride in her home, and her boyfriend had moved in just a few months ago, Deemer said.
"A single fatality is really tough to deal with, even for us, who've been doing this for a while," said Contra Costa fire Capt. Robert Marshall. "With a multiple, it's so much worse, particularly if it's preventable."
He asked that residents change out their smoke detector batteries every six months and replace the entire units every 10 years.
The fire is believed to have started near a couch on the apartment's first floor, though the exact cause is likely at this point to remain unknown, Marshall said, though arson has been ruled out.
Contact Sean Maher at 925-943-8013. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/OneSeanMaher.