Off-duty firefighter rescues residents from burning building

Published: April 24, 2006 | 4077th good news item since 2003

An off-duty Chicago firefighter came to the rescue of residents in a burning West Side apartment building Sunday morning. Fire crews struck the blaze just before 8 a.m.

Officials said the blaze started around 6:30 a.m. on the second-floor rear porch of the building and spread upwards. Several people were trapped inside, but were rescued by emergency crews. No one was injured.

An off-duty firefighter was driving by and spotted the smoke. Without waiting for backup and no protective gear, he rushed into the building to try and evacuate those who were still inside.

“A lady in the apartment. I asked her if she was alone or had any kids. She said she was by herself. I told her to go out. I started going up the stairs and there was somebody on the stairwell. I grabbed them and I pulled them down to the first floor, showed them where the door was the rest of the way out. I started knocking on doors to make sure everybody else was out,” said Kevin Wirtz, off-duty Chicago firefighter.

“The front door is where I tried to go out but the smoke was too heavy. I couldn’t make it out there. I run to the back and I stayed there until some guy brought me down on a ladder,” said Ben Hill, resident.

A resident said the building was supposed to close last week to make room for a new condominium building, but the landlord decided to give residents more time to find new homes.

Published in Rescues
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