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Local News

Officials decline to say how fatal Mokena fire began

The aftermath of Saturday's fatal fire on Front Street in Mokena.
The aftermath of Saturday's fatal fire on Front Street in Mokena.

The Mokena fire chief and the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office refused to say what started the fire that caused the death of a 68-year-old man. 

John L. McGrath died after a fire at his single-story, brick apartment Saturday on First Street just west of Wolf Road.

McGrath was pronounced dead about 11:15 a.m. Saturday at Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox. 

Mokena Police Chief Steve Vaccaro said he was told by the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office that the fire was an accident.

Vaccaro said the incident is being investigated by the fire marshal’s office and the Mokena Fire Protection District.

“Every indication right now is that it was accidental but we are waiting on final determination from state fire marshal’s office,” Vaccaro said. 

When asked how the fire started, Mokena Fire Chief Howard Stephens would only say that the case is under investigation. When asked why he couldn’t comment further on how the fire began, Stephens said it was because the incident still is being investigated.

Terry Ooms, arson investigation division manager with the state fire marshal’s office, declined to answer questions about the fire. Ooms said to fill out a Freedom of Information Act request for details on the incident. 

The Will County Coroner’s Office failed to return a call Monday.

A Mokena Fire Protection District news release said firefighters were notified of the fire at 10:14 a.m. after receiving a 911 call from a neighbor who reported seeing black smoke coming from McGrath’s apartment.  

The fire protection district’s first unit arrived at the scene at 10:17 a.m.

The main body of the fire was under control at 10:22 a.m.

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