Woman perishes in Brookfield house fire

Damage so extensive, two-story residence must be demolished


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By Bob Uphues


A 53-year-old woman died in a fire that destroyed a Brookfield home early on June 10, one of two fires in the village Sunday morning.

Brookfield Fire Chief Mark Duffek confirmed firefighters had located the woman, who lived alone, inside the house at 4312 Arthur Ave. Her dog also perished in the blaze, which remains under investigation by the Illinois State Fire Marshal.

The Cook County Medical Examiner identified the victim as Susan E. Colby.

"The house is going to have to be demolished," Duffek said, adding that a portion of the two-story frame house had collapsed.

Firefighters battled the blaze from the outside, because the fire was so heavy and the structure so unstable that it was deemed too dangerous to enter. Duffek said that Colby's body was found on the first floor of the home.

Duffek said that the fire appears to have started on the first floor and investigators have narrowed the point of origin to the kitchen and dining room areas. The building was slated for demolition on June 12, Duffek said.

According to Brookfield Deputy Police Chief Edward Petrak, a preliminary autopsy done by the medical examiner's office on Monday indicated no signs of foul play. An official cause of death is pending toxicology results, Petrak added.

Karl Kolumbar, a neighbor, called 911 after looking out the window and seeing the house on fire and hearing the dog barking. Windows of the home blew out as the heat intensified inside.

"It was incredible," Kolumbar said. "There was orange fire in the sky."

According to Cook County property records, Colby had owned the home since 1995. The house is surrounded by heavy vegetation, including a number of mature trees, some of which were scorched. The homes on either side of 4312 Arthur Ave. appeared to have escaped being damage.

Colby was a licensed physician, an ophthalmologist, for several years in the 1990s, according to records maintained by the state of Illinois. She was first licensed by the state in 1991, but she did not renew the license when it expired in 1999.

Colby also owned at least two cats that survived the fire. Police discovered one of them, a black cat named "Inky," sheltering in the garage on Monday. Colby's sister will be adopting that cat, police said. Another, a white-and-tan cat named "Luki," was found Monday night by a neighbor.

Duffek said that while the cause of the fire was still under investigation, it was not ignited by lightning.

Hollywood home struck by lightning

A storm blew through town earlier in the morning on June 10, and lightning appears to have struck the home at 3427 McCormick Ave. 

Neighbors told police that they heard a "loud boom" around 4 a.m. but it wasn't until about 5:30 that a neighbor noticed smoke coming from the roof of the home. Fire damaged a portion of that home's second floor.

No one was inside the residence at the time lightning struck the house, according to police.

Duffek said firefighters were wrapping up that scene when the fire call came for the house on Arthur Avenue.

Email: buphues@wjinc.com Twitter: @RBLandmark

Reader Comments

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Diane Schweitzer-Maru  

Posted: June 11th, 2018 6:24 PM

I drop off flowers. God bless

Donna Karpavicius  

Posted: June 11th, 2018 12:23 PM

A 53 year old is elderly? Yikes.

Mark Rogers  

Posted: June 11th, 2018 12:13 PM

There is an inspection required by the village for rehab/significant home improvement on residential, investor and commercial property. The property on Prairie would have been subject to this. Unfortunately, the way that it's written, the village is not liable if they missed something on a required inspection. Plus, if there was human error involved, all the inspections in the world would not have stopped it.

Jolyn Crawford  

Posted: June 11th, 2018 8:56 AM

Maybe it's time to re-instate inspections on sales and rentals...2 fires; 1 explosion and 1 victim in the past few weeks.

Kathy Taylor Wyant  

Posted: June 10th, 2018 7:08 PM

How sad! We saw Shields was closed later this morning, with several emergency vehicles parked in the area.

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