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UPDATED 11:30 AM EDT:
Twenty-eight-year-old Brian Carey of the Village of Homewood (IL) Fire Department died following a house fire around 9:00 last night. Firefighter Karra Kopas, 21, was burned in the fire. An elderly resident of the home died.
According to information on the web, Firefighter Carey was sworn in as a member of the department on February 9, 2010 at a Village of Homewood Board of Trustees meeting.
Homewood officials are looking into whether oxygen tanks may have fueled a ferocious house fire that killed an elderly man and a rookie firefighter — the department’s first fatality in the town’s history.
“It’s our first one we lost in the history of Homewood. . .You can imagine how I feel,” said Homewoood Fire Chief Robert Grabowski, who choked up during a brief morning news conference.
He described the dead firefighter, Brian Carey, 28, as a “very dedicated employee” who “truly loved being a firefighter.”A part-time firefighter, Karra Kopas, 21, suffered first- and second-degree burns and was stable in the burn unit at University of Chicago Hospitals, officials said. Mayor Richard Hofeld said her injuries were not life-threatening.
Kopas began with the department in June of 2005, Grabowski said.
The homeowner, Wendell Elias, 84, also died in the fire. Grabowski was asked about reports that oxygen tanks Elias used had exploded during the blaze.
“It’s still under investigation,” he said. “I don’t have confirmation.”
Firefighters rescued Elias, who used a wheelchair, from his home on their second attempt. They attempted to resuscitate him on the front lawn, Homewood Police Sgt. Bernie Hogancamp said.
The 87-year-old man’s wife was able to escape the fire and was also taken to a hospital.
Carey was declared dead at 10:03 p.m. at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest.
The mayor said Carey had worked for the town as a part-time firefighter before getting sworn in on Feb. 9 to a full-time post with the department. Hofeld said he attended the village board meeting when Carey was sworn in by the village clerk
“Nice, nice young man,” Hofeld said. “He had a smile from ear to ear, he was so happy to get on the fire department, just a delightful nice young man.”
He said the department has about 30 full and part-time firefighters.