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Elderly couple killed, police officer injured in Mokena house fire

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Updated: June 11, 2014 6:23PM



An elderly married couple was killed and a police officer was injured in a fire that destroyed a home in an unincorporated area near Mokena early Wednesday.

Emergency crews were called to a fire in the 19600 block of Catalpa at 3:21 a.m., Frankfort Fire Protection District Chief Jim Grady said. Two Will County Sheriff’s Deputies and three Mokena officers were the first to arrive on the scene. They had tried to get into the home before firefighters arrived but were unsuccessful.

The victims have been identified as Erwin L. Pauls, 81, and Arline R. Pauls, 80, of Mokena, according to the Will County Sheriff’s office. The Pauls were pronounced dead at 4:48 a.m. outside their home.

Initial indications from an autopsy show the couple experienced smoke inhalation, according to the Will County coroner’s office. The final cause of death is pending the outcome of autopsy, toxicology, police and fire reports.

A Mokena police officer, a sergeant who works the midnight shift, tried to enter the home through a rear door before firefighters arrived. He was taken to Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox to be treated for smoke inhalation, Grady said.

Mokena Police Chief Steve Vaccaro said the officer had been treated and released by 8 a.m. and was doing fine. Vaccaro would not identify the officer.

“The sergeant basically took a face full of smoke,” Vaccaro said.

While the cause remains under investigation, the fire did not appear to be suspicious, Grady said. He described the house as a “total loss.”

Neighbors said the couple has lived at the house for years and that the man was frequently ill.

Matt Mozzi, 13, who lives down the street, said he occasionally talked with the couple and was shocked when he saw the home Wednesday morning.

“It’s kind of scary,” he said. “They asked me to come and shovel the snow in the winter. I tried to help them out with work. It’s weird. I just talked to them a couple of days ago.”

Brandon Felkamp, 20, who lives about a block away from where the Pauls lived, said Arline Pauls always waved at him whenever she drove past. He last saw her two days before the fire, walking her small dog.

Standing outside the burnt home Wednesday morning, Felkamp recalled helping the Pauls push their car after it had gotten stuck last winter. He said the couple has lived in the neighborhood for as long as he could remember.

“They’ve known me since I was a baby,” Felkamp said.

The Pauls’ family has selected Cremation Society of Illinois in Romeoville for funeral arrangements.



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