Police probe fire, restaurant owner's death

Police said today that a West Side fire may have been the work of arsonists. 

The blaze at 5048 W. Chicago Ave. broke out at 7:20 p.m. Wednesday in the second floor of a building belonging to James Phillips, authorities said.

Phillips, 56, owned Phillips' Ribs on the building's first floor. He died of natural causes hours before the fire.

Phillips called 9-1-1 to report he was having troubled breathing Wednesday morning. Minutes later, his 2002 Cadillac Escalade crashed into a light pole on the 1100 block of North Central, police said.

The Chicago Police Bomb and Arson unit is investigating whether the fire had anything to do with Phillip's passing, police spokesman Marcel Bright said.

No gasoline or other accelerants were found at the scene, police said.