January 23, 2021

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Old Irving Park fire: Elderly couple pronounced dead

An elderly couple died Thursday night in a house fire in the Old Irving Park neighborhood on the Northwest Side.

Robert Szalacha, 85, and his wife Carol Szalacha, 78, were found inside the home and pronounced dead at the scene, according to authorities and the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

Their daughter, who was also inside, got out and refused medical attention, police and neighbors said.

The fire broke out about 9:20 p.m. at the home in the 4200 block of North Kildare Avenue and soon engulfed the building, according to Chicago Fire Department officials.

Deputy District Chief Brian McKermitt said crews “encountered heavy fire on the first floor” after receiving reports the couple was trapped. While inside, the blaze “started intensifying,” and the firefighters retreated outside.

Once the fire was brought under control, a search was conducted, and the bodies were discovered, McKermitt said.

An investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing, he added.

Dozens of onlookers lined the street and peered from their porches as crews of firefighters beat back the blaze.

A fire gutted a house in the 4200 block North Kildare Thursday night, and an elderly couple was found dead inside.

A fire gutted a house in the 4200 block North Kildare Thursday night, and an elderly couple was found dead inside.
Tom Schuba/Sun-Times

Two neighbors clung to each other, looking on in disbelief. The man and woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said they knew the couple and saw that their daughter had escaped the Thanksgiving Day inferno.

“No matter what time, it’s a tragedy,” said one of the neighbors. “From what we understand, they’re gone. They’re gone because they were both upstairs.”

By 10:40 p.m., the massive fire was largely reduced to smoldering rubble.

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