Chicago pays respects to fallen firefighters

It was an emotional day for the Chicago Fire Department on Thursday as two of their own were being laid to rest.

Thursday morning, the funeral for CFD Lt. Jan Tchoryk was held, and Thursday evening, firefighters took part in a walk-through at the visitation of CFD Firefighter Jermaine Pelt.

Last week, the department suffered the ultimate tragedy – losing both firefighters on two separate calls within two days.

Since then, CFD has experienced a huge outpouring of support from near and far.

"The loss that was endured here was felt around the world. We’ve had firefighters from throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, Africa and beyond reach out, send their love, their support to the firefighters and the people of Chicago," said Edward Kelly, general president, International Association of Fire Fighters.

Lt. Tchoryk died last Wednesday while responding to a fire in the Gold Coast.

At about 8 a.m. on April 5, a massive fire broke out on the 27th floor of a condo building near Division and DuSable Lake Shore Drive.

Because the elevators weren't working, firefighters had to carry their gear up a stairwell. Tchoryk was one of the first firefighters to arrive at the scene, springing into action to help.

As Tchoryk battled the blaze, he collapsed.

According to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office, Tchoryk, 55, died of hypertensive-arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease.

"At times like this we often ponder about a person’s legacy. Did he or she leave this place better than they found it? Well, for Jan, the answer is yes, he did," said CFD Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt.

In a somber procession, Tchoryk’s body was escorted from Cumberland Chapels in Norridge to St. Joseph Ukrainian Catholic Church.

Tower Ladder 10 and Engine 4 led the way with the department's pipe and drum corps following behind. Tchoryk's gear laid on the truck carrying his casket.

"He was the proud son of two immigrant parents who gave up everything familiar to them to give their children access to a better life," said Laryssa Oasyka, Tchoryk’s niece and goddaughter.

Tchoryk had been a Chicago firefighter since 1997.

During his funeral service, family members said Tchoryk had a wonderful sense of humor, a commitment to community, and had recently reconnected to his Ukrainian heritage and his faith.

Fellow firefighters said Tchoryk always put others first, the cornerstone of what they do.

"Jan is going to be missed by all of us, family, friends, the fire department. He wore so many hats. A true patriot – serving our country during the Gulf War," said Lt. Richard Florczak, Chicago Fire Department Engine 4. "Jan, my friend, I’m going to miss you, may you rest in peace my friend."

Tchoryk was the second Chicago firefighter to die in the line of duty last week.


Another veteran Chicago firefighter, 49-year-old Jermaine Pelt, died while battling a fire in the city’s West Pullman neighborhood a day prior to Tchoryk's death.

Like Tchoryk, Pelt lived a life dedicated to service.

"We take an oath to put others first, and that bonds us, that unites us," said Kelly.

With the Chicago Fire Department since 2005, Pelt died last Tuesday, April 4 while battling a house fire.

The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office officially ruled Pelt’s death an accident from inhaling smoke and soot.

"You have to think about the firemen that are still responding to calls right now, this is their brother, this is their family and it takes a toll on them too," said Andrew Holmes, crisis responder.

In a moving tribute to the fallen hero, hundreds of Chicago firefighters filed into Pelt’s visitation on Thursday evening.

Held at Blake-Lamb Funeral Home in Oak Lawn, the visitation drew community members who knew him – and even those who didn't, like Juan Cayetano who hand-crafted a memorial for Pelt's family.

"This is for the first responders in general, you guys are not alone, there is a whole community that is supporting you guys so thank you for your service," said Cayetano.

Pelt's funeral will be held Friday morning at House of Hope Church in Chicago.  

Both men leave behind children.

Help is being provided to their families through fundraisers established by Widows’ and Children’s Fund of the CFD.