Professor is 5th local fire victim in 3 months

Professor is 5th local fire victim in 3 months

URBANA — Former University of Illinois physiology department head William Sleator died after a blaze at his Urbana home early this week. He's the fifth person to die in a Champaign County residential fire in the last three months.

The period from Sept. 23 through today has been anomalous for fire-related deaths, which are typically few and far between in the area.

Mr. Sleator, 96, was pulled from the fire around 10:43 p.m. Monday. He was taken to Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana and pronounced dead later that night.

Nicholas Temperley, Mr. Sleator's brother-in-law, said the former professor moved to Urbana in 1969 to head the physiology department at the UI. Sleator has been incapacitated in recent years, Temperley said, and has been watched over by caretakers.

Mr. Sleator has two surviving sons, Temperley said, and a daughter who preceded him in death. Mr. Sleator was also the father of William Sleator III, a well-known science fiction and children's author who died in 2011.

Firefighters were called to his home at 605 W. Michigan Ave. on Monday night. Initial reports indicate the fire was in the back side of the house. Part of the second floor collapsed onto the first about a half-hour after their arrival, and the fire was spreading to the attic. Urbana firefighters requested mutual-aid assistance from the Savoy Fire Department.

The fire's cause was still under investigation, Urbana Fire Marshal Phil Edwards said.

He reminded people to check on their elderly relatives or friends.

"Check on them often, and think of fire safety with the elderly, especially with those that may need a little extra help," Edwards said.

Recent fire-related tragedies

Fire-related fatalities are normally relatively few in Champaign County, but the past three months have been unfortunately deadly.

Dec. 23: A 96-year-old man dies after fire at home at 605 W. Michigan Ave., U. Cause as of yet unknown.

Nov. 29: A 76-year-old woman dies in fire in Shadow Wood Mobile Home park, Champaign. Cause officially undetermined, but officials believe it related to hoarding.

Oct. 28: An 88-year-old woman dies in house fire at 408 West Springfield Ave., U. Fire's cause not announced.

Oct. 18: A 55-year-old woman dies after fire at 116 W. Letchworth Ave., Rantoul. Appears to have been smoking-related.

Sept. 23: A 58-year-old woman dies in fire at 400 S. Steffler St., Rantoul. Cause either an overloaded extension cord or an electrical item.

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