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Local News

Report: Candle may have caused fire that killed Mokena man

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 fire that led to a a Mokena man’s death on April 13 may have been caused by a candle, according to an Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office report. 

State fire marshal investigators hypothesized that a flame from a candle came into contact with “combustible materials” inside the living room of 68-year-old John L. McGrath’s home at 11220 First Street in Mokena, according to a report obtained by The Herald-News through a Freedom of Information Act request. 

Mokena firefighters found McGrath lying beneath his kitchen table when they responded to the fire.

McGrath he was taken to Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox, according to the state fire marshal’s office report.

McGrath was later pronounced deceased at the hospital. 

The fire was considered accidental by the state fire marshal’s office.

State fire marshal investigators were not able to rule out “energized electrical ignition sources” as the cause of the fire but they hypothesized it was caused by a candle.

The candle may have come in contact with paper, plastics, fabric or other “ordinary combustible materials” near a recliner inside of McGrath’s living room, the report said.

The state fire marshal’s office report said McGrath’s immediate family members confirmed he had a history of burning candles inside his home.

The family members also said McGrath lived alone but had three domesticated cats, according to the report.

Mokena Fire Chief Howard Stephens said he still did not know the cause of the fire. Stephens said he also didn’t know what happened to McGrath’s cats. 

Calls and messages to the state fire marshal’s office were not returned Thursday. 

The report said the fire started in the living room of McGrath’s home where a foam-padded recliner was located.

The first materials that caught fire were paper, plastics, fabric and other “ordinary combustible materials.” 

The available sources of the fire were identified in the report as electrical devices lighting fixtures, a candle and a butane lighter. 

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