GOLD COAST — A firefighter died while battling a Wednesday morning blaze at a Gold Coast high-rise.
The firefighter, Jan Tchoryk, is the second to be killed in separate blazes in two days. Officials said the back-to-back losses were “unprecedented” in Chicago.
Veteran firefighter Jermaine Pelt was killed Tuesday while working the hose line at a fire in West Pullman.
“This has been a tragic week for us, unprecedented,” said fire Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt. “I can’t tell you how this impacts us, losing two members in two days. As I said yesterday, this job is dangerous, and you never know if you’re coming home … .
“Please keep his family in your prayers, as well as the entire Chicago Fire Department.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot, speaking at a news conference at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, said the city will support the families of the firefighters in every way possible.
“Firemen, like police officers, run toward danger while the rest of us run in the other direction,” Lightfoot said.
Officials went to the fire about 7 a.m. at 1212 N. Lake Shore Drive, Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said. Only the building’s garage had sprinklers, Nance-Holt said.
Tchoryk collapsed while heading up the building’s stairs to fight the blaze, Nance-Holt said. He was taken to Northwestern Hospital in critical condition and later pronounced dead.
Three other firefighters were taken to local hospitals in fair to serious condition, Nance-Holt said.
The fire had been mostly put out by by 9:40 a.m., though it continued in one apartment on the building’s 27th floor, according to the Fire Department.
At the scene of the fire, Ald. Timmy Knudsen (43rd) said he’s working to find temporary housing for displaced residents.
“Right now, we need to push with the community that we’re here for them,” Knudsen said.
Tchoryk, 55, joined the Fire Department in 1997, Nance-Holt said. His son was recently sworn in as a Chicago police officer, and Lightfoot said she had met him at his graduation.
Prior to joining the Fire Department, Tchoryk was in the Navy and served in Operation Desert Storm, Nance-Holt said. He was an “avid outdoorsman” who biked, rode motorcycles and took pride in his big family, she said.
Ald. Nick Sposato (38th), a former fireman, was sad to hear the news of Tchoryk’s death, especially on the heels of another firefighter dying. He and Tchoryk worked in the same battalion when they started on the job about 25 years ago, he said.
After Sposato left the department and entered politics, he saw Tchoryk, a Northwest Side resident, at union meetings. He was “a good guy,” Sposato said.
Pelt, the firefighter killed earlier this week, joined the Fire Department in 2005 and spent his entire career serving the Roseland community, Nance-Holt said Tuesday.
Pelt celebrated his birthday in March and recently walked his daughter down the aisle, Nance-Holt said. Pelt also has a 6-year-old son, Nance-Holt said.
For the second time in two days, firefighters on Wednesday formed a procession to escort the body of a fallen comrade to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office, passing under an American flag attached to two fire truck ladders.
A fire truck that had been at the scene of the morning fire arrived, as well. The firefighters were still covered in soot and smelled of smoke.
Interim police superintendent Eric Carter and dozens of uniformed police officers lined up to salute Tchoryk. His remains passed behind a fire truck from his longtime Engine 10.
Nance-Holt, standing in front of Tchoryk’s remains, wrapped the casket in an American flag and addressed her first responders.
“I never thought I’d be standing here again today with you,” she said.