While the members of Wheaton’s Fire Department routinely train for challenging rescues and extraordinarily dangerous situations, it’s not at all routine when they get a call that puts these skills to use.
At its Feb. 20, 2018 meeting, the Wheaton City Council recognized the exemplary actions of Wheaton Fire Department members in two separate high-risk operations.
At approximately 7:45 p.m. March 24, 2017, Wheaton fire and EMS personnel were dispatched to a water rescue incident east of the College of DuPage. They arrived to find a vehicle in frigid water approximately 70 feet from shore with the driver inside. In addition, a police officer from another community who had tried to rescue the occupant also now needed assistance.
Wheaton fire and EMS personnel implemented a cold-water rescue mission, working with firefighters from Lisle Woodridge Fire Protection District to retrieve the victims. Firefighter Anthony Tabb entered the water at risk to himself to rescue the vehicle’s driver, and he and the victim were assisted back to shore by Firefighter Mortenson and Lt. Byas. Once the victim was out of the water, Paramedics Trikolas and Lecaros treated the highly hypothermic driver. Thanks to the rescue operation, the patient survived the incident, and the police officer was safely removed.
Based upon these actions, the Wheaton City Council presented Lt. Byas, Firefighter Tabb, Firefighter Mortenson, Paramedic Trikolas and Paramedic Lecaros with the 2017 Wheaton Fire Department Unit Commendation Award for their flawless execution of mission critical tasks during this high-risk operation.
In addition, Assistant Fire Chief Pete Vassios received a State of Illinois Firefighter Excellence Award for a high-risk rescue he made while with the Orland Fire Protection District, where he previously served as Lieutenant. Assistant Chief Vassios joined the Wheaton Fire Department in February 2015, and due to an administrative error, this award from the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association had been lost for several years. The Illinois Fire Chiefs Association recently discovered this error and notified Wheaton Fire Chief Schultz.
On Sept. 13, 2014, Vassios and his crew responded to a single-family house fire with an occupant trapped inside. Vassios entered the home’s bedroom window under heavy smoke, located the trapped occupant, and pulled her to safety. While the victim did survive for extended time after the incident, she ultimately succumbed to her burn injuries while at Loyola Hospital. Vassios’s bravery along with his fellow crew members gave the victim the best chance for survival, and for these actions, Vassios received the State of Illinois Firefighter Excellence Award.