A house in unincorporated Joliet exploded Sunday night, injuring a man whose girlfriend has been missing for a month and damaging a nearby residence.
The explosion occurred around 9 p.m. at the two-story home on the 100 block of East Circle Drive, East Joliet fire officials said.
The man, identified by the Will County Sheriff's Department as 45-year-old James Borg, was pulled out of the home by a neighbor. Borg suffered severe burns and was taken by helicopter to a Chicago hospital with burns on 70 percent of his body.
Will County Sheriff's Deputy Chief Ken Kaupas said the fire has been deemed arson, noting there were obvious signs that the gas line had been taken apart and the valve left in a wide open position.
"Probably what makes this more tragic is we've been conducting this missing person's investigation," Kaupas said.
Borg's girlfriend, Anne Gay, was last seen June 10 but wasn't reported missing until June 22. Police have yet to locate Gay, Kaupas said, and Borg was questioned in her disappearance.
Kaupas described their relationship as tumultuous and said both were arrested on multiple occasions.
"It was probably obvious to [Borg] that we had honed the focus of our investigation down to him," Kaupas said, "and that was just last week."
Firefighters worked through the night to stem the blaze, which also damaged a home next door where a family of four was able to escape without injury.
"The challenge for us was just to get the fire under control and then get it stopped," Fire Chief Robert Scholtes said. "It's in an unincorporated area and we had to take water into the site."