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OFPD District honors firefighters for service and heroism

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OFPD District honors firefighters for service and heroism

Photo credit Courtesy the Orland Fire Protection District. From left, OFPD Fire Chief Ken Brucki, OFPD Trustees John Brudnak and Jayne Schirmacher, Village of Orland Park Trustee Ed Schussler, Lt. Pete Vassios, OFPD Trustee Chris Evoy, Orland Hills Mayor Kyle Hastings and OFPD Board President James P. Hickey.

Photo credit Courtesy the Orland Fire Protection District. From left, OFPD Fire Chief Ken Brucki, OFPD Trustees John Brudnak and Jayne Schirmacher, Village of Orland Park Trustee Ed Schussler, Lt. Pete Vassios, OFPD Trustee Chris Evoy, Orland Hills Mayor Kyle Hastings and OFPD Board President James P. Hickey.

The Orland Fire Protection District Tuesday awarded its highest honor to Lt. Pete Vassios for saving the life of a female victim of a home fire in Orland Park last month, and gave recognitions to 29 other firefighters.

Fire Chief Ken Brucki and the OFPD Board also celebrated the service of former Board President Jack Leddin with a permanent plaque placed in his honor on the Board Room wall.

Vassios was among firefighters who responded to a fire at the home on the 14500 block of Aspen Street in Orland Park on Saturday Sept. 13. Vassios entered the home through a back window to pull out 56-year-old Beth Tooth from the frame home which was consumed by fire and smoke.

Tooth was in cardiac arrest with no pulse and she was immediately revived by paramedics who restored breathing and a pulse. She remains in critical condition at the Loyola Burn Unit, officials said.

Battalion Chief William Bonnar described the scene saying a heavy fire was coming through the front of the home through a family room window with lots of heavy smoke, but was under control within 10 minutes of the fire call.

Bonnar and Brucki presented the Medal of Valor to Vassios for his “conspicuous bravery above and beyond the call of duty and showing extreme courage in the face of imminent danger.”

“Lt. Vassios went into the room which was filled with heavy smoke and fire and brought the victim out. She had no pulse and was not breathing. Her pulse and breathing was restored and she is at the Loyola Burn Unit where she is recovering,” Brucki said.

“Vassios risked a lot to save a lot.”

A humbled Vassios, who was accompanied by his wife, son and daughter, pointed fingers at the firefighters who filled the OFPD Board room, saying “Everyone did their jobs that day. It’s not just me. It’s everyone here.”

Brucki and the board also honored the memory of John P. “Jack” Leddin, who joined the OFPD in 1980 and was elected to the Board in 1991 serving three terms as the board’s President. Leddin died in 2004 at age 68 just before the April 2005 elections.

Orland Hills Mayor Kyle Hastings led the memorial and recognition ceremony or Leddin, noting the former firefighter was from Orland Hills.

“He was a pure gentleman and a friend,” Hastings said. Jack’s love was always the fire district. He always wore two or three radios on his belt. … He said he wore them because he had to be informed. He was a class guy and I am proud that we will remember him and his service to the community.”

OFPD Board President James P. Hickey praised Leddin saying his service was always dedicated to providing the highest quality service to the residents of our fire district.

“Leddin is a role model for everyone who aspires to fire service,” Hickey said.

The Fire District recognized four members of the Orland Police Department for their hands-on role in helping to save Tooth in response to the Aspen Street home fire, and 20 firefighters during the ceremony.

The Orland Park Police Officers are John Zorbas, Hank Schoonveld, Dave Staszak and Chris Losurdo. The OFPD Firefighters are Battalion Chief William Bonnar, Lt. William Leddin, Engineer David Nagel, Firefighter Brad Carter, Lt. Todd Schuneman, Engineer Robert Walsh, Firefighter Bob Proctor, Firefighter Matt Johnson, Firefighter candidate Justin Dublin, Firefighter Brett Buenzow, Engineer Nick Tufts, Lt. John Purtill, Engineer Rob Winkelman, Firefighter Jim Pape, Lt. Erick Johnson, Engineer Steve Rivero, Firefighter Eric Zielinski, Lt. Sean Merck, Engineer Scott Nietfeldt and Firefighter candidate Jason Postma.

Service recognitions were presented to five firefighters. Maintenance Engineer Bob LaMantia was recognized for 45 years service. Lt. Scott Olinski and Engineer Dan Scloegel were recognized for 30 years of service. And, Fighter Thomas Rafferty and Engineer Robert Walsh were recognized for 25 years of service.

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