CHICAGO – Chicago fire officials said Saturday that the department was investigating a blaze that killed a firefighter who had been with the department for more than 30 years.
Memorials were erected outside the damaged home remembering Capt. Herbert Johnson, who Mayor Rahm Emanuel called “a larger than life person.”
Johnson, 54, died late Friday at the University of Chicago emergency room after battling the house fire on Chicago’s South Side. The father of three suffered second- and third-degree burns and officials said it’s possible he was hit by a flashover of flames. Paramedics performed CPR as they carried him out of the home, fire officials said.
Firefighters stood and saluted as an ambulance carrying Johnson’s body was escorted by police and fire vehicles to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
Johnson “touched everybody that ran into contact with him. He was a larger than life person,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.
Johnson’s death is the first for the Chicago Fire Department since two firefighters died in a building collapse in 2010. A second firefighter was injured Friday but in good condition at a suburban hospital.
Johnson received the state’s Medal of Honor in 2007 for bravery, the highest honor given by Illinois to a firefighter.
Tom Ryan, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2, the Chicago fire union, said Johnson was a shining example of public service.
“We lost a piece of our heart and our soul today,” Ryan said.
Johnson’s funeral was planned for Thursday at St. Rita High School on Chicago’s South Side. Visitation will be Wednesday at Curly Funeral Home in Chicago Ridge, the union said.