Elderly woman identified in fatal fire

WOODSTOCK – Anita Kohl made teaching her life and touched many lives during the 16 years she spent as an elementary teacher at Woodstock District 200, Superintendent Ellyn Wrzeski said.

Kohl died Thursday night after a fire started in the first-floor room she frequently occupied inside her home at 509 E. Kimball Ave. in Woodstock. She was 73.

“She touched the lives of many children in those 16 years,” Wrzeski said. “Teaching was her life, and it was something she was passionate about and something she lived for.”

Kohl began at District 200 in 1988, when she taught at Westwood Elementary School. She would later move on to the district’s Verda Dierzen Early Learning Center, before retiring in 2004 at the former Clay Elementary School.

Employees throughout the district office Friday were shocked and saddened to hear that Kohl was the victim of the fire, Wrzeski said. She called the loss “tragic and sad” for the district community.

Woodstock Fire Rescue arrived around 7:30 p.m. Thursday at 509 E. Kimball Ave. to find fire showing throughout the first floor with evidence of extension into the attic, firefighters said.

They issued a MABAS box alert, requesting help from surrounding departments.

Neighbors reported that a victim was still in the home and they heard sounds coming from the back of the house.

Once firefighters entered the home, they were quickly forced out after the fire began to spread rapidly into the attic space. They re-entered the home and ultimately found Kohl deceased.

The fire was under control in about 30 minutes. No firefighters were injured.

The exact cause of the blaze is currently under investigation, although foul play has been ruled out, said Woodstock Fire Chief Ralph Webster. The Illinois Fire Marshall is assisting with the investigation.

Emergency crews from Lakewood, Huntley, Crystal Lake, Union, Wonder Lake, Harvard, Marengo, Algonquin, Rutland-Dundee and Spring Grove helped extinguish the fire.

• Shawn Shinneman contributed to this report.

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