West Chicago police: Firefighters find body in smoldering blanket during training
West Chicago police are investigating the death of a person found Tuesday wrapped in a still-smoldering blanket on a Joliet Street property just south of Roosevelt Road.
The fire department on Tuesday morning was participating in a training exercise on the site on the 1300 block of Joliet Street, containing a mix of boarded-up, single-story houses slated for demolition. At the conclusion of the training, a firefighter discovered the body near their training site by a picnic table, police said. Officers were dispatched to the scene at 11:57 a.m.
"He saw some smoke coming from there, and he went over there and discovered the body," Police Chief Michael Uplegger said.
By Tuesday night, investigators had not identified the body and were not releasing details about the scene. A camping tent also was found nearby.
Uplegger said the death appears to be an isolated incident and that there is no threat to the community.
Sources initially indicated the body found was that of a child, but Tuesday evening officer Michael Rosenwinkel said it was an adult body.
"We believe it's a male. We're unable to identify the body right now," Uplegger said. "There will be an autopsy tomorrow morning, at which time we should be able to identify the body."
Members of the DuPage County Major Crimes Task Force and DuPage County state's attorney's office are assisting with the investigation. Authorities did not offer any explanation on why the blanket around the body was smoldering.
More than a half-dozen investigators were seen looking through the prairie behind the boarded-up homes late Tuesday afternoon, and a tent and recording equipment on tripods were set up far in the back near a tree line. Blue tarp blocked the view under the tent.
Yellow police tape surrounds the property along Wycliffe Drive and around to Joliet Street. It's a large, prairie-filled parcel with just the few buildings and a long driveway surrounded by trees. Neighborhoods full of homes sit to the west along Joliet Street and to the north on Wycliffe Drive, which forms a loop off Joliet.
The houses were boarded up about two weeks ago, and trees were cleared months ago as part of a redevelopment plan for the site, neighbor Teri Wagner said.
Later in the evening, police taped off another property east within the Wycliffe Drive loop.
Wycliffe Drive resident Caiti Inc said she and her neighbors walk her dogs regularly in the open land, including last night, when she saw nothing unusual at the time.
"We just came home today and saw all of this," she said.
West Chicago firefighters referred all questions to the police department.
Until Tuesday night, drivers were prevented from turning south onto to Joliet Street from Roosevelt Road, snarling traffic on Roosevelt. Joliet Street south of Wycliffe Drive also was sealed off from foot traffic.
• Daily Herald staff photographer Patrick Kunzer and staff writer Doug T. Graham contributed to this report.