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Police: Evidence could point to arson in Skokie house explosion

Firefighters respond house explosi8734 Kimball Ave.. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media

Firefighters respond to a house explosion at 8734 Kimball Ave.. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 11, 2012 8:18AM

An accelerant may have been used to cause a December explosion and fire in an abandoned Skokie two-flat that left one man injured, according to Skokie police.

While the Skokie Fire Department has said only that the case is still under investigation, a Skokie police report indicates that an arson investigation is underway.

According to the report, Illinois State Fire and Arson Investigator Mitch Kushner said “a single burnt match” was found near a man who was found injured outside the building after the explosion.

“Based on Kushner’s initial observations, and the length of time it took to extinguish the fire in an apartment building that had no furniture, (he) suggested an accelerant may have been used,” the police report says.

Firefighters from several departments responded around 9 a.m. Dec. 12 to an explosion that rocked the neighborhood around the abandoned two-flat at 8734 Kimball Ave.

A 52-year-old Prospect Heights man believed to be related to the property owner was found injured on the sidewalk in front of the building. He was first taken to St. Francis Hospital in Evanston and then to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for treatment of spinal injuries.

The building was being renovated, and no one was living there, fire officials said.

According to the police report, Kushner said the fire took place after the explosion that blew the front off the building.

Although the remaining three sides of the building were still standing, the investigators were unable to conduct an investigation inside because of a “lack of structural integrity.” It has since been demolished.

The injured man’s vehicle had been parked in front of the building with keys in the ignition when the fire department arrived, the police report stated.

The vehicle was moved out of the way to allow firefighters to extinguish the fire. It was later driven away by a relative of the injured man, but authorities later impounded it as part of the investigation.

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