Bruce Rauner, Governor

State Links Skip to Content Skip to State Links

 Health & Safety
 Family & Home
 About Illinois

Stay Informed

Your Government

Illinois Flag Honors

Inspector General

 IGNN: State/All Press Release

The State of Illinois News page provides access to the Illinois Government News Network and all state press releases.

May 11, 2006

Gov. Blagojevich honors fallen firefighters, recognizes 28 other firefighters for extraordinary acts of bravery
Thousands of firefighters attend 13th annual Illinois Fallen Firefighter Memorial, Firefighter Medal of Honor Awards Ceremony in Springfield

SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today thanked firefighters for their bravery and personal sacrifice as thousands of firefighters from across Illinois gathered near the State Capitol for the 13th annual Illinois Fallen Firefighter Memorial and Firefighting Medal of Honor Ceremony.

“Every day, thousands of firefighters selflessly put their lives on the line to protect families in their communities,” said Governor Blagojevich. “Today, we’re honoring 28 firefighters for their extraordinary acts of bravery.  But, we’re also remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives in the line of duty.  I would like to thank all the men and women who face these dangers almost every day.”
The ceremony began with the presentation of colors and an invocation at the Illinois Fallen Firefighter Memorial, followed by a processional to the State Armory for the awards ceremony.
The late Patrick Cramer, a firefighter with the Chicago Fire Department, and Captain Dan Rebbe, from the Springfield Fire Department, were honored with the Duty Death Gold Badge awards.  The award is presented to families of firefighters deceased in, or as a result of, the performance of duty.
State Fire Marshal David Foreman presented the Medal of Honor awards, the highest award given to firefighters by the state of Illinois, to six firefighters who were selected for their acts of outstanding bravery or heroism, by which they demonstrated selflessness and personal courage above and beyond the call of duty, under adverse conditions, with the possibility of extreme personal risk.  They include:
  • Lieutenant Jeffery Kraft, Calumet Park
  • Captain Joseph Casale, Melrose Park
  • Firefighter Phillip Marx, Chicago
  • Captain Frank Cambria, Chicago
  • Firefighter/Paramedic Josh Hill, Hazel Crest
  • Lieutenant/Paramedic Johnny Jones, Hazel Crest
In addition, 10 firefighters were recognized for acts of heroism or bravery that clearly demonstrated courage and dedication in the face of danger.  Medal of Valor award recipients include:
  • Firefighter/Paramedic James Scharnhorst, Oak Forest
  • Engineer Thomas Stotts, Oak Forest
  • Lieutenant Leonard Bonnevier, Oak Forest
  • Firefighter/Paramedic Frank Ritter, Bolingbrook
  • Lieutenant Richard Kostelz, Bolingbrook
  • Captain Robert Rojas, Chicago
  • Firefighter/Paramedic Jeffery Purtell, Bolingbrook
  • Lieutenant Richard Gustafson, Chicago
  • Paramedic in Charge Roberta Shanahan, Chicago
  • Paramedic Jorge Lara, Chicago
Certificate of Recognition awards acknowledge those nominated for awards for their dedication to the principles and traditions of the fire service.  The 2005 Certificate of Recognition award recipients include:
  • Firefighter/First Responder Bradley Miller, Barry
  • Volunteer Firefighter Michael Bellovich, New Canton
  • Engineer Kevin Lueder, Chicago Heights
  • Firefighter/Paramedic Michael Campnell, Oak Forest
  • Firefighter/Paramedic John Janozik, Oak Forest
  • Firefighter/Paramedic William Stearns Jr., Oak Forest
  • Firefigher/Paramedic Kevin O’Leary, Bridgeview
  • Firefighter Kevin Herrick, Bensenville
  • Lieutenant James Escue, Marion
  • Firefighter Steven Plumer, Marion
  • Engineer Christopher Sarcletti, Bolingbrook
  • Firefighter/Paramedic Eric Biskup, Bensenville
The awards presented today recognized heroic actions during 2005.  Nominations were reviewed and winners selected by the 10-member Illinois Firefighting Medal of Honor Committee. 
Stories about the events for which the Medal of Honor and Medal of Valor award winners were selected are attached.
- 30 -
Medal of Honor Recipient
Lieutenant Jeffrey Kraft
Calumet Park Fire Department
On April 15, 2005, Lt. Kraft responded to a fire with the two other members of his crew.  On arrival, flames were coming out of a second floor window.  The flames reached the top of the three-story building.  There were no victims in the window, but police on the scene state there were still people trapped on the third floor.  Lt. Kraft kicked in the entrance door to the front of the building and proceeded by himself up the stairs to the second floor.  The door to the apartment on fire was open, with thick black smoke coming out, filling up the stairwell going to the third floor.  He heard someone calling for help.  The third floor hallway was filling with smoke.  There was a woman lying at the top of the stairs.  Without hose line protection, he assisted her down the stairs to a safe area, and gave up his own air pack mask because of the heavy smoke conditions.  Lt. Kraft went back up to the third floor and found a man in one of the apartments.  Lt. Kraft then assisted the man down to safety.  Lt. Kraft went back to the second floor with an attack line and extinguished the fire in the apartment by himself.
Medal of Honor Recipient
Captain Joseph Casale
Melrose Park Fire Department
On Thursday, January 13, 2005, Captain Joseph Casale of the Melrose Park Fire Department was conducting a Public Education program to the students at the Stevenson Public School.  He was conducting this program in a classroom located on the second floor of the school.  About 15 minutes into the program, one of the students stood up and shouted, “Fire!”  To all those in attendance, this student’s cry went unnoticed because of the nature of the material Captain Casale was teaching.  The student once again stood up and shouted, “Fire!”  At this time, Captain Casale went over to talk to the student.  While talking with this student, Captain Casale glanced out a window and saw fire blowing out the window of the first floor living room window of a two-story private dwelling.  Captain Casale informed the teacher to dial 911 and report the fire.
Captain Casale ran across the street with Lt. Ron Liano of the Melrose Park Police Department, who was working security at the school.  Both men entered the rear of the house by the first floor by forcing open the back door.  The conditions upon entering the house in the kitchen were a moderate smoke condition with a moderate heat condition from a burning couch in the front living room.  Both men shouted asking if anyone was in the house as they searched the bedrooms and bathroom.  Attempting to search the first floor they searched as much as possible with limitations due to no protective equipment.
Captain Casale found a stairway leading to the second floor.  Both men quickly climbed the stairs.  On the second floor a closed-door led to another apartment.  While Captain Casale was searching the smoke-filled apartment he found a woman and her young infant child sitting in the living room, not sure what to do.  Captain Casale had a language barrier with the frightened woman, who did not speak English.  Captain Casale took the child from the woman and assisted them down the stairs in smoky conditions, past the fire floor to the fresh air and the first arriving units on the scene.  Captain Casale handed the young child and woman over to paramedics to be evaluated as well as being able to inform the first arriving company officer where the fire was located and the contents of the fire.
Medal of Honor Recipient
Firefighter Phillip Marx
Chicago Fire Department
At a fire scene on July 12, 2004, Firefighter Phillip Marx on Engine 47 was told that there were victims trapped on the third floor of the structure.  With an absolute disregard for his personal safety, he immediately entered the rapidly deteriorating structure alone.  Firefighter Marx fought his way up to an internal stairway, which was being protected by a hand line from other members of Engine 47.  Under withering heat, the dense and churning smoke began to envelope him.  As Firefighter Marx entered the third floor, the entrenched fire began to consume and overtake the entire floor.
Firefighter Marx quickly searched the apartment and located a semi-conscious 45-year-old-woman.  The victim was suffering from asphyxia, and second and third degree burns.  Firefighter Marx began to carry the woman down the hallway toward the stairwell.  As he came to the top of the stairwell, the rapidly escalating fire blocked his egress.  He instantly turned around and headed back into the apartment with the victim in tow.  Firefighter Marx got the victim to the third floor window, where another dramatic rescue had just been performed.  He signaled Firefighter/Paramedic Velez of Engine 47 to assist him with the removal.  Velez ascended the ladder, as the ladder was simultaneously being raised, and set to the window.  As this was happening, the swiftly encroaching fire began to consume the room.  In a final act of incomparable courage, Firefighter Marx opened his turnout coat and draped it around the victim to safeguard her from further injury.  This action placed him between the victim and the scorching heat.  Firefighter Marx was then able to heave the woman out of the window in the Firefighter/Velez’s arms as the room exploded into flames and flashed over.  Firefighter Marx, himself beginning to burn, then performed an emergency ladder bailout onto the ladder.
Without Firefighter Marx’s selfless act of heroism, this recovering victim would have surely perished.
Medal of Honor Recipient
Frank Cambria
Chicago Fire Department
Responding to a fire on January 5, 2005, Truck 35 found a one-story home with a fire in the basement and heavy smoke billowing from the first floor and attic.  The officer on Truck 35 that day was Captain Frank Cambria.  Upon arrival, Captain Cambria was notified that two children were trapped inside the building.  Captain Cambria immediately entered the building without the protection of a hand-line, and proceeded through the intense heat and thick smoke to the attic where he found and rescued at 12-year-old girl.  Captain Cambria passed the young girl to Lieutenant Fleming, who brought the girl to safety.
Captain Cambria then re-entered the attic to search for the second child.  Captain Cambria proceeded deeper into the building, refusing to yield to the intense heat and smoke, which had intensified since his first rescue effort, resulting in this second search being conducted in zero visibility.  Captain Cambria entered the front bedroom, pushed forward, and rescued the second child, an 8-year-old boy.  Captain Cambria found the boy hiding between the bed and the front window, despite untenable conditions.  While exiting the home with the boy, Captain Cambria shared his air with the young boy, until the boy was safely removed from the building to an ambulance.
Due to Captain Cambria’s leadership, dedication and professional execution of his duties, these two children were rescued from a potentially deadly fire and transported to the hospital.  Both children fully recovered from the effects of the heat and smoke.
Medal of Honor Recipients
Lieutenant /Paramedic Johnny Jones
Firefighter/Paramedic Josh Hill
Hazel Crest Department of Fire, Rescue, and Inspectional Services
On January 16, 2005, the Markham Fire Department was dispatched to a report of a house fire.  On arrival, Engine Company 1532 reported a “Working Fire” and immediately requested a mutual aid Truck Company from Hazel Crest.  Once at the scene, Lieutenant Johnny Jones and Firefighter Kevin Sears were preparing to ventilate the roof, when without warning, the roof collapsed under where Firefighter Sears was standing.  Firefighter Sears fell through the opening down into the garage.  Lieutenant Jones attempted to rescue Firefighter Sears by placing a ground ladder through the opening, but was unable to due to the flames that were now venting through the opening.  Lieutenant Jones exited off the roof and made entry through a covered exterior door with the assistance of Firefighter Josh Hill.  Through heavy smoke conditions and fire, they were able to locate Firefighter Sears and remove him from the structure using the ladder Lieutenant Jones had placed into the opening.  Firefighter Sears was transported to St. James Olympia Fields Hospital with smoke inhalation and first and second degree burns.  Firefighter Sears was then airlifted to Loyola Hospital Burn Unit. 
Medal of Valor Recipients
Lieutenant Leonard Bonnevier
Engineer Thomas Stotts
Firefighter/Paramedic James Scharnhorst
Oak Forest Fire Department
On March 12, 2005, the Oak Forest Fire Department received a request for an automobile in the water and two people possibly trapped.  Upon Lieutenant Leonard Bonnevier’s arrival, he found a Cook County Sheriff’s Officer in the creek water with an automobile upside down on its roof and below the water line.  Lieutenant Bonnevier, without any concern for his personal safety, immediately entered the water to help the Sheriff’s Officer check the vehicle for victims.  It was discovered there was one person in the automobile, and the doors could not be opened. 
Upon arrival of the ambulance with Engineer Thomas Stotts and Firefighter/Paramedic James Scharnhorst, they entered the water and attempted to open the automobile to remove the victim.  After several attempts, the window was broke open, and a woman in severe hypothermia was removed by Engineer Stotts and Firefighter/Paramedic Scharnhorst.  They were met at the bank of the creek by Firefighter/Paramedics William Stearns Jr. and Michael Campnell, who carried the lady to the ambulance.  Lieutenant Bonnevier, Engineer Stotts, and Firefighter/Paramedic Scharnhorst jumped into the ambulance with the patient to warm while waiting for assistance.  At this time, Firefighter/Paramedic John Janozik had put the ice rescue suit on and entered the water to check for any other victims.  No other victims were found.
The woman was treated by Firefighter/Paramedics Stearns and O’Leary for severe hypothermia and transported to Palos Hospital. 
Medal of Valor Recipient
Lieutenant Richard Gustafson
Chicago Fire Department
On May 31, 2005, Lieutenant Richard Gustafson, along with Engine 29 and Truck 8, responded to a fire that began on the back porches of a three-story apartment unit and also involved a third floor apartment.  Engine 29 led out to the top of the front stairs and was attempting to gain entry to the fire floor.  Truck 8 had two members searching the lower floors.  Lieutenant Gustafson was just behind Engine 29 when the fire overwhelmed two firefighters at the top of the stairs, knocking them down past Lieutenant Gustafson and down to the 2nd floor landing.  The entire stairwell was now charged with smoke and heat.  Lieutenant Gustafson started down the stairs and came upon the firefighters.  Lieutenant Gustafson separated the firefighters while also clearing away entangled equipment.  Lieutenant Gustafson gave the first firefighter to his responding Truck 8 members to take out.  Lieutenant Gustafson then dragged the remaining firefighter out by himself.  The two rescued firefighters were unconscious.  One firefighter was barely responsive and the other firefighter required immediate rescue breathing.  If there had been any delay in finding these two firefighters, they would not be alive today. 
The crew of Truck 8 was driven from the roof as tar burned off in a sweeping fashion.  As they exited the roof, they opened the third floor windows.  They then moved the ladder to the adjacent roof and went back up.  They got a line and knocked down the fire on the roof and then crossed over to the fire building and opened the roof to assist in the extinguishment.  This Truck’s effort was in the highest tradition of the fire service and an astounding feat considering the fact Lieutenant Gustafson was the only regular member of the Company working that day. 
Medal of Valor Recipients
Lieutenant Richard Kostelz
Firefighter/Paramedic Jeffrey Purtell
Firefighter/Paramedic Frank Ritter
Bolingbrook Fire Department
On June 1, 2005, the Bolingbrook Fire Department responded to an automatic fire alarm at an apartment complex.  The building is one of several three-story, 94 plus unit buildings.  While fire units were en route, the Bolingbrook dispatch center began receiving multiple 911 calls from residents reporting they could not get out of their units due to heavy smoke.  Several calls were received for people who were leaning out their windows and one for a woman who had jumped and broken her leg.  The first unit on the scene went to the second floor to begin rescue efforts where they encountered heavy smoke conditions.
The second engine on the scene, Bolingbrook Unit 211 with Lieutenant Richard Kostelz as officer, went to the “D” sector where they encountered a crowd of people and a hysterical woman.  The woman relayed the fire was in her apartment and her mother was trapped on the second floor.  This was not previously called into dispatch as one of the apartments with people trapped.  Smoke was presenting at multiple windows on the second floor.  After several attempts to obtain a location from this woman, Lieutenant Kostelz was able to ascertain a possible area where the mother was located in this large three-bedroom apartment.
Lieutenant Kostelz ordered that a ladder be thrown to the second floor unit window where the woman indicated.  Firefighter/Paramedics Frank Ritter and Jeffrey Purtell placed the ladder while Engineer Christopher Sarcletti dropped a 1¾-attack line from the engine, operated the pump, and secured a water supply.  Lieutenant Kostelz, Firefighter/Paramedics Ritter and Purtell climbed into the apartment window with an uncharged hose line and were met with heavy smoke and high heat conditions.  Floor to ceiling fire conditions were present in the kitchen area directly outside the bedroom they entered.  Lieutenant Kostelz ordered Firefighter/Paramedic Ritter to knock down the fire and maintain a cover line in the hallway while he and Firefighter/Paramedic Purtell were going to perform a search.  Lieutenant Kostelz and Firefighter/Paramedic Purtell left the safety of the hose line and exited the bedroom entering the hallway off of the kitchen.  Lieutenant Kostelz and Firefighter/Paramedic Purtell moved in a left-handed search pattern entering a living room area.  As they passed a couch, they located the victim.  Lieutenant Kostelz assessed that the victim had sustained burns on the upper part of her body and was still breathing.  At this point, Lieutenant Kostelz called on the radio that they had located the victim and told the outside crews to move the ladder.  At the same time, Firefighter/Paramedic Purtell located a window in the living room and broke it out identifying their location.  Under heavy smoke and heat conditions, Lieutenant Kostelz and Firefighter/Paramedic Purtell moved the victim to the window and passed her out to Firefighter/Paramedic Dan Bradley who had ascended the ladder that was moved to the window.
The entire time frame, from the crew entering the window, to finding the victim and moving her out the window to safety, occurred in one minute.  The level of heat and fire damage in this area showed the living room to have been moments away from flashover.
Once the victim was removed, Lieutenant Kostelz and Firefighter/Paramedic Purtell continued with their primary search under the protection of Firefighter/Paramedic Ritter who was covering them and extinguishing the fire with the hose line.  Firefighter/Paramedic Ritter additionally prevented the fire from extending down the hallway after the apartment entry door located in the living room had burned through and collapsed.  Once the primary search was completed and no further victims were found, Lieutenant Kostelz and Firefighter/Paramedic Purtell returned to the hose line and completed extinguishment of the fire along with Firefighter/Paramedic Ritter.
The victim sustained significant full thickness burns to the upper 1/3 of her body along with smoke inhalation and respiratory damage.  The victim received life sustaining advanced medical treatment and was transported to Good Samaritan Hospital by the Bolingbrook Fire Department.  She was later flown to Loyola Medical Center Burn Unit.
Medal of Valor Recipient
Captain Robert Rojas
Chicago Fire Department
On January 8, 2005, Truck 58 responded to a still fire alarm.  Upon arrival, Captain Robert Rojas and his company encountered an occupant of the one-story bungalow that had just escaped the fire.  Expressing great concern and some degree of panic, this person alerted them that two elderly residents were trapped in the basement apartment. 
Captain Rojas led his company into the front door despite thick, acrid smoke and zero visibility. They proceeded to the basement stairwell and descended into some of the most hazardous conditions in the basement, facing intense heat.  Captain Rojas, along with Firefighter Jaccobazzi and Firefighter Kluge, pushed forward through the fire and smoke-filled environment toward a faint sound.  Refusing to yield to the untenable conditions, Captain Rojas, on his hands and knees, crawled in a search pattern feeling his way until finding an elderly man on a couch, close to the seat of the fire, suffering from smoke inhalation and nearly unconscious.  Captain Rojas, aided now by Firefighter Jaccobazzi, Firefighter King, and Lieutenant DiPinto, rescued the man from the basement and removed him to a safe location at the front of the building.  Initiating primary medical treatment, Captain Rojas supervised the immediate care for the victim until Ambulance 7 arrived on the scene. 
Medal of Valor Recipients
Paramedic-In-Charge Roberta Shanahan
Paramedic Jorge Lara
Chicago Fire Department
On January 16, 2004, Chicago Fire Department Ambulance Company 15 responded to an unconscious person at the CTA Train Station.  Upon arrival, Paramedic-In-Charge Roberta Shanahan and Paramedic Jorge Lara proceeded down the stairs to the station platform, where they were informed by a bystander the patient appeared to have fainted and was now lying on the tracks.  The paramedic crew informed a CTA station employee to contact the CTA Control Center and request the electrical power to the train tracks be shut down.  The CTA employee then informed the paramedic crew that due to his portable radio being defective, there were no immediate means for him to contact the control center.  It was at this time the employee noticed and informed the paramedic crew a train was rapidly approaching the station from a short distance away.  Paramedic-In-Charge Shanahan contacted the EMS dispatcher via her two-way radio and requested the CTA be contacted immediately and to shut down the power to the train tracks in both directions.  The EMS dispatcher acknowledged the request, and also informed the crew that ALS Engine Company 113 would be responding to assist.  Paramedic-In-Charge Shanahan and Paramedic Lara could now see the approaching train.  Acknowledging that ALS Engine Company 113 would arrive too late to assist in saving the patient, both paramedics surmised that the electrical power to the train tracks had not been shut down.  Without regard to their own personal safety, Paramedic-In-Charge Shanahan and Paramedic Lara climbed down on the train tracks and lifted the patient up onto the station platform just seconds before the approaching train passed the station. 


News Categories

 Governor's Office
 Lt. Governor's Office
 Economic Development
 Flag Honors
 Health/Human Services
 Opportunity Returns

News Resources

 Search the News
 IIS Radio News
 RSS News Feeds
 e-News Subscriptions
 Communications Office
 Privacy Statement


Sign up for an e-news subscription
Copyright © 2017 State of Illinois Site Map | Illinois Privacy Info | Kids Privacy | Web Accessibility | Contact Us