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One dead, one injured in Oak Forest house fire

An Illinois State Police crime scene investigator works scene suspicious fire 15230 S. Central Avenue Oak Forest Tuesday December 18

An Illinois State Police crime scene investigator works the scene of a suspicious fire at 15230 S. Central Avenue in Oak Forest Tuesday, December 18, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 20, 2013 6:17AM



One of the victims of a fatal house fire in Oak Forest Tuesday had injuries “not related” to the blaze, authorities said, though they declined to elaborate.

Erica Rodriguez, 40, was found dead inside the burning home in the 15200 block of Central Avenue in Oak Forest, authorities said.

Her 48-year-old husband, Martin Rodriguez, was found injured on a porch of the home, Oak Forest police Chief Greg Anderson said.

He was taken to South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest and then transferred to Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn where he was listed in critical condition later Tuesday.

Greg Anderson said a passerby called in the fire at 9:06 a.m. Tuesday. And rescue crews arrived to find Martin Rodriguez unresponsive on the porch and his wife dead inside, Anderson said.

The Illinois State Fire Marshal and South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force are investigating the fire, which Anderson said is standard practice to rule out any foul play.

Oak Forest Fire Chief Terry Lipinski, though, said one of the victims had injuries that were “not related to the fire,” but declined to say which victim or what the injuries were.

Lipinski said officials were waiting for a search warrant to be issued so they could inspect the home.

An autopsy on Erica Rodriguez is scheduled for Wednesday, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

He said firefighters were able to extinguish the fire within 20 minutes.

Lydia Ponczak, a next-door neighbor, said she learned of the fire when the passing motorist saw the smoke and pulled into her driveway to call 911.

She later went outside and saw her two neighbors being carried out on stretchers.

Martin Rodriguez was bloody around his neck and his skin was blackened with burns, Ponczak said. The face of his blonde-haired wife also was “badly burned, like she had been in the sun too long,” she said.

“It’s been a very scary morning,” Ponczak said.

She described them as a “very nice couple, very soft spoken.”

“I only knew them as neighbors. They were never any trouble. They would watch for packages for me,” Ponczak said. “My heart goes out to their kids.”

Three children live in the home — a 17-year-old girl, 15-year-old boy and 6-year-old girl — but were at school at the time of the fire and were not injured, Anderson said.

Sheila Browne, another neighbor, said her son went to Foster School with the Rodriguezes’ youngest daughter.

The kids had just left for school when she heard the fire trucks.

“You always hear fire trucks on Central, but these weren’t going away, they were getting louder,” Browne said.

“When I looked out, I saw them bring someone out on a stretcher,” she said. “We’re all in shock. It was a pretty bad fire.”

Contributing: Jason Freeman



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