93-Year-Old Killed in Suburban Fire

Man's wife survived blaze in Matteson

A 93-year-old man never made it out of his home after a fire started there Sunday night.  His wife, apparently, did survive.

Authorities said Willie Johnson was badly burned in the fire and was pronounced dead at St. James Hospital and Health Centers in Olympia Fields about an hour and a half after the fire started.

His wife -- who was rescued by a neighbor and a Matteson police officer -- was hospitalized after the accidental blaze started in their south suburban Matteson home.

Matteson Fire Deputy Chief Patrick Gericke said the fire began at about 9 p.m. and was extinguished about an hour later.

Gericke said several 911 calls, including one from the surviving woman in her mid 80s, were received and indicated people were trapped inside.

Police arrived at the scene first and a Matteson police officer and a male neighbor rescued the woman from an upper level deck area off the kitchen after the neighbor heard the woman’s screams.

Firefighters arriving at the scene found heavy flames shooting from the upper level of the “raised ranch” style wooden home.  Johnson was found inside the home after a search of the house, Gericke said.

The woman was burned but did not suffer life-threatening injuries and was hospitalized at St. James Hospital.

The house was a total loss, with about $180,000 in damages.

About 30 firefighters from several different departments including Richton Park, Park Forest and Flossmoor assisted.

Although the fire was determined to have been apparently accidental, the deputy chief declined to say what caused the fire, but said an electrical cause has been ruled out.

An autopsy is scheduled for later Monday.

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