CHICAGO (WLS) — A Chicago Fire Department lieutenant has died after a fire earlier this month near O’Hare airport.
CFD announced Tuesday that Lt. Kevin Ward, 58, died at Loyola Medical Center Monday night.
The Aug. 11 fire broke out in a home in the 8300-block of West Balmoral Avenue. Lt. Ward was in the basement of the home when he was critically injured.
He had led the charge into the burning home.
He was transported to Loyola Medical Center. Two other firefighters were injured in the fire.
Fire officials said Lt. Ward was surrounded by his family when he died. He joined the department in 1996.
Officials said they were hopeful Ward would pull through, and, because they were never able to speak to him, they still don’t know exactly what happened in the moments before a first mayday was called.
“This was not an easy fire. It was a basement fire, which are very difficult to fight,” Deputy District Chief Kelly Burns said. “Being on that call and being at the hospital with him that night, if you had told me three weeks later that we’d be doing this I wouldn’t have believed you.”
A procession to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office took place about noon Tuesday.
“He was a lot of times by himself, but when we got on that rig, the bells rang, he meant business. And that’s what Kevin was about,” retired firefighter Bob Arens said. “Kevin, we’re going to miss you down here my friend, my brother. We got it from here.”
Ward has been described as an adventurer, avid reader and self-proclaimed dog dad.
Ward worked second shift at Engine 11, Truck 9, where purple bunting covered the Northwest Side building Tuesday.
“His family was with him as he died peacefully in the hospital. I don’t know what else to say,” Chicago Fire Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt said. “Every time we lose a member it’s like losing someone in our family. We stay together 24 hours a day. And this man has been here 27 years, so he’s impacted and touched a lot of lives.”
It’s been a tough year for the Chicago Fire Department.
Ward is the third firefighter to die in-the-line-of-duty this year.
Back in April, the department lost two firefighters on back-to back days, with 49-year-old Jermaine Pelt dying on April 4, and 55-year-old Jan Tchoryk on April 5.
“You never know when the bells go off if we’re going to come home. When one goes down, we’re there when you need us. That’s our saying,” Arens said.
Pelt died battling a house fire in West Pullman, and Tchoryk died while responding to a high-rise fire on North Lake Shore Drive.
“This is very tragic for us. We haven’t healed from the last few deaths we’ve had. We continue to try to lift each other up, but this keeps happening. We just ask that everybody pray for the family, for us,” Nance-Holt said.
Ward is survived by his sister and father.
Mayor Brandon Johnson said in a statement, “On behalf of the City of Chicago, I offer my sincerest condolences on the passing of Chicago Fire Department Lieutenant Kevin Ward. I pray for the peace of his family, friends and loved ones during this most difficult time.
“Let us keep Truck #9 and all of our dedicated first responders in our hearts as we honor Lt. Ward’s life and memory.”
Chicago police said in a statement, “Our hearts are with the loved ones of LT. Kevin Ward, who died in service to our city. We stand with our brothers and sisters of the Chicago Fire Department as they grieve this tremendous loss.”
Tuesday’s procession route was north on First Avenue to Roosevelt Road, east on Roosevelt to Western Avenue, north on Western to Harrison Street and east on Harrison to Leavitt Street.