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Elderly Couple Found Dead In Old Irving Park Fire Caused By 'Careless Use Of Smoking Materials'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Two seniors were found dead Thanksgiving Day night in a fire in the Old Irving Park neighborhood. Officials said the fire was caused by "careless use of smoking materials," and an oxygen tank in the home helped fuel the blaze.

The Fire Department said a still-and-box alarm was called for the fire the two-and-a-half-story frame house at 4217 N. Kildare Ave.

The house was fully engulfed.

The bodies of 85-year-old Robert Szalacha and 76-year-old Carol Szalacha were found at the scene around 9:21 p.m. and were pronounced dead by Fire Department personnel, according to police and fire officials and the Cook County Medical Examiner's office.

An autopsy on Friday determined Robert Szalacha died of carbon monoxide poisoning and thermal injuries, and Carol Szalacha died of thermal injuries and smoke inhalation.

According to the Cook County Medical Examiner's office, the house fire was caused by "careless use of smoking materials." The Fire Department said an oxygen tank found in the home also was a contributing factor in the fire.

Police said a 61-year-old woman was also in the house at the time of the fire, but refused treatment.


The Fire Department said flames went through the roof of the house, forcing firefighters into a defensive attack of the fire.

The fire was extinguished at about 11:20 p.m.

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