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Arson likely in house fire

Firefighters were busy Tuesday afternoon fighting a fire near Wagner and Books roads in Naperville.  |  Bill Bird~Sun-Times Media
Firefighters were busy Tuesday afternoon fighting a fire near Wagner and Books roads in Naperville. | Bill Bird~Sun-Times Media

A fire Tuesday afternoon that caused no injuries but did more than $200,000 damage to a house near Naperville’s far south side appears to have been deliberately set, authorities said Wednesday.

Investigators from the Naperville Fire Department and the Will County sheriff’s and Illinois state fire marshal’s offices are leaning toward arson as the cause of the blaze that gutted the ranch-style house at 28W727 Wagner Road, in the unincorporated Wheatland South area of Will County adjacent to Naperville’s Ashbury neighborhood.

“It is suspicious in nature,” Deputy Naperville Fire Department Chief Rick Sander said of the blaze. “It’s under investigation by our fire investigation team, with assistance from the state fire marshal’s office.”

Sander declined to comment further on the fire, other than to say no traces of accelerant were found in the ruins of the home.

Sheriff’s deputies and firefighters were sent to the Wagner Road address early Sunday morning following a report of a domestic quarrel there. A neighbor who declined to be identified said Tuesday a young couple had moved into the house about a month ago, and that the man late Saturday night or early Sunday morning came outside and stood on the street, screaming the woman’s name.

Kathy Hoffmeyer, spokeswoman for Will County Sheriff Paul Kaupas, said Wednesday sheriff’s deputies who spoke to the woman that morning found her to be “very, very upset.” Paramedics took her to an area hospital for observation and possible treatment, Hoffmeyer said.

A deputy returned to the neighborhood Tuesday to assist in the fire investigation, Hoffmeyer said. The woman who owns the burned house “stated she had relatives living there,” Hoffmeyer said.

The deputy, in his report, said he learned from a fire department official the blaze “appeared to be suspicious,” Hoffmeyer said. A representative of the fire marshal’s office who also went to the scene “stated that he believed the fire to be intentional,” she said.

Hoffmeyer added that, in addition to the owner’s relatives, another man was apparently also living in the house as a guest.

The fire, which broke out about 2:38 p.m. Tuesday, was first reported in a 911 call from a passerby. The caller reported seeing fire in the front window, and firefighters found flames shooting from the roof upon their arrival on the scene.

Twenty-four firefighters and 10 vehicles and pieces of apparatus were sent to the area. Firefighters cut a large, triangular-shaped hole in the locked garage door in order to gain entry to the house.

Naperville Fire Capt. Tom Oker said on the scene the neighborhood is not served by fire hydrants. A hydrant was located to the north and west of the intersection of Wagner and Book roads, and firefighters linked 700 feet of hose together to obtain the water needed to extinguish the flames.

Thick, foul-smelling, yellow-brown smoke poured out of the house until about 3:25 p.m. Oker said the main body of the fire had been extinguished about 10 minutes earlier.

Portions of the roof and main floor of the house collapsed during the blaze. Damage was estimated at more than $200,000.

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