By: Christopher Brennan
Last evening, March 30th, Firefighter Brian Carey of the Homewood Fire Department, Homewood, Illinois, died in the line of duty. His partner, Karra Kopas, was seriously burned, and has a hard recovery ahead of her. Brian was a 28 year-old young man; Karra is a 21 year-old young woman.
It will be some time before the investigation into this incident reveals details of what happened. Based on the published reports in the Chicago Tribune, and the Southtown Star newspapers it sounds like there was a flashover. The crews on scene had one elderly resident out of the building and knew there was a wheel-chair bound man still inside.
I feel I can say this right now today, without a full investigation or report, that Brian Carey died living up to the fire service virtues of Honor, Courage, and Duty. Karra is going to have to suffer through treatments, and the recovery that comes from critical burns, for living with every ounce of her character our mission: To Save Lives and Property.
Brian and Karra are examples of the Fire Service Warriors I am proud to call my brothers and sisters. It is their obvious selflessness, courage, and sense of duty that I believe we need to honor in the fire service.
The calling of the Warrior is not for everyone. It requires selflessness and self-control that are not encouraged in this 21st Century world. We live in a culture that promotes luxury as being a “right” and hardships as something that are beneath us. The Warrior, be he a Fire Service Warrior or one of our fellow Warriors in the Military or Law Enforcement know this isn’t the case. Hardships are the reality of the world. Having the strength to accept the way of a Warrior is an acceptance of the difficult and the dangerous. It is accepting a life of hardship, pain, and continual self-control.
It requires a certain heroic quality just to accept a position that you know will place you in harms way, keep you from your family at the holidays, and force you to confront physical and mental challenges. You will be wet, cold, and tired far more often than you want to. You will likely be injured at some point in your career. Think of the words of Chief Edward Croker, FDNY, who said:
“Firemen are going to be killed right along. They know it, every man of them… firefighting is a hazardous occupation; it is dangerous on the face of it, tackling a burning building. The risks are plain…. Consequently, when a man becomes a fireman, his act of bravery has already been accomplished.”
This is why true Warriors have been revered as long as stories of their exploits have been recounted. It is written that in 500B.C. Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic philosopher said,
Of every 100 men, 10 should not even be here, 80 are nothing more than targets. Nine of them are real fighters. We are lucky to have them, they the battle make. Ah but the one. One of them is a warrior and he will bring the others back.
Brian died last night living that very role, the role of the “one”. My thoughts and prayers are with his family (his natural family and his fire service family) as they confront his loss. I hope that they can find solace in the fact that he died a hero’s death, trying to rescue a neighbor who he had sworn an oath to protect. Brian has joined the heroes who have gone ahead.
Karra, my thoughts and prayers are with you as you recover. You are a Fire Service Warrior. You lived your duty and risked your life to try and save your neighbor. Stay strong, stay positive, and get back to the firehouse.