Lowell man, 86, dies after accidentally setting himself on fire

2013-05-14T19:45:00Z 2013-05-15T13:12:05Z Lowell man, 86, dies after accidentally setting himself on fireElvia Malagon elvia.malagon@nwi.com, (219) 933-3246 nwitimes.com

LOWELL | An 86-year-old man died late Monday after accidentally setting himself on fire, officials said.

James Johnson, of Lowell, died at the University of Chicago Medical Center at 11:59 p.m. Monday, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office. The cause of death was pending autopsy results.

Charles Scott, assistant chief at the Lowell Fire Department, said they responded Monday afternoon to the 5800 block of West 177th Avenue after receiving a call that an elderly man had accidentally set himself on fire while smoking a pipe.

Scott said Johnson had extensive burn injuries to his body. He said the fire was an accident.

Cindy Johnson, James Johnson's daughter-in-law, said going outside to smoke a pipe was part of his daily routine.

"He carried a bag of tobacco with him like it was food," she said.

Johnson said her husband, James A. Johnson, was home at the time of the fire. He told her his father went into the garage to smoke because of the strong wind outside.

Johnson said her husband said he heard James Johnson call for help. He was covered in flames by the time her husband reached him. Her husband suffered burns when he tried to put out the fire using his coat. When that didn't work, he extinguished the flames with a nearby hose.

James Johnson worked at U.S. Steel as a carpenter before retiring. He also lived in Texas and Kentucky.

Cindy Johnson said her father-in-law recently had moved in with them.

"He was friendly," she said. "Always was good for a good laugh."

The family plans to have a visitation from 3 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Geisen Funeral Home, 7905 Broadway in Merrillville.

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