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Home's resident dead at scene of fire

Fire chief confirms arson likely

Fire officials investigate the scene of a fire at a residence on Creek Drive in Morris, where one person was found dead.
Fire officials investigate the scene of a fire at a residence on Creek Drive in Morris, where one person was found dead.

Morris Fire Chief Tracey Steffes says the Friday fire that involved the death of one person was likely the result of arson.

But local law enforcement officials do not believe there is any danger to local citizens.

“I don’t see any danger to the community,” said Morris police Sgt. Scott Henderson Friday evening.

The victim was identified Friday evening by Grundy County Coroner John Callahan as Charisse P. Kotowski, 61, of 1624 Creek Drive. Callahan said an autopsy was being done Friday night, but he could not release any more details by press deadline.

“It does appear it was intentional,” Steffes said regarding the use of an accelerant that was spread throughout the house.

Just before 2 p.m. Friday, Steffes, Morris Police Chief Brent Dite, fire crews, police and arson investigators were still on scene. The initial fire call came in at 10:50 a.m.

Steffes indicated there was evidence of an accelerant throughout the house at 1624 Creek Drive. There was even some accelerant that had not yet burned. While the substance had not been positively identified, Steffes said it smelled like gasoline.

The Morris Fire Protection and Ambulance District responded within a minute of the call coming in because Steffes and an engine happened to be at U.S. 6 and Creek Drive, he said.

When firefighters arrived, Steffes said, heavy smoke was evident in the garage and could also be seen through the windows in the first floor of the brick residence.

The garage door was forced open and firefighters extinguished the fire. Upon searching for people, the victim was found. No other victims were found after continuous searches.

“The fire department responded to a structure fire and through their efforts fighting the fire came across one victim in the residence,” Dite said late Friday morning.

By 2 p.m., arson investigators from MABAS 15 and the Illinois Fire Marshal’s Office were on scene, as were Illinois State Police Crime Scene Investigators.

“They’re on scene now doing a survey of the scene,” said Sgt. Henderson at the time. “At this point, I’m waiting on the crime scene team to notify us.”

A neighbor who did not want to give his name said he was getting ready to take his dog for a walk when he saw smoke coming out his neighbor’s garage. The smoke was coming out of the top of the garage door, he said.

“I banged on the door, but no one answered so I came back and called the fire department,” he said.
Neighbors surrounded the block watching the emergency officials work. Many of the windows of the multiple-story brick home appeared broken out.

Morris, Coal City and Minooka fire were all on scene, as were Morris police, Grundy County Sheriff’s deputies and a representative of the Grundy County Coroner’s office.

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