An elderly woman died and three persons were injured yesterday after a stove-top fire engulfed an efficiency apartment in a Northwest Washington senior citizens home, D.C. fire officials said.

The afternoon blaze apparently started in the third-floor apartment of the dead woman, fire officials said, and it resulted in the evacuation of many of the 202 residents of the Friendship Terrace retirement home.

The name of the dead woman, who was alone in her apartment, was not released pending notification of her family. The injured were 81-year-old Aubrey Hurtung, who was taken to Georgetown Hospital after complaining of chest pains and was listed in critical condition; firefighter Brett Sutor, and 80-year-old Cecilia H. Jones. Sutor and Jones were taken to Sibley Hospital suffering from smoke inhalation, fire officials said.

Among the first to arrive at the fire, which began about 3 p.m. at 4201 Butterworth Place in a wooded neighborhood, were members of a church youth group playing volleyball across the street. Leaders of the St. Columba's Episcopal Church youth group said they initially thought the smoke coming from the building was from an incinerator. But when they heard the fire alarm, they immediately entered the building to escort some of the residents to safety, they said.

"The people were terrified and disoriented," said William Watson, 21, an American University student. "We were afraid some of them were going to have heart attacks."

The group of about a dozen leaders and students walked the residents across the street to a church auditorium. They served coffee and provided choir robes for warmth as firefighters brought the blaze under control.

Residents were able to return to their apartments about two hours later. Firefighters and students escorted them across the street and up the driveway to the building.

Firefighters at the scene yesterday said they did not know what caused the fire on the stove but added that much of the damage was limited to the efficiency apartment and the third-floor hallway.