Fireman, resident die in Homewood fire

March 31, 2010 8:42:30 PM PDT
Investigators are trying to determine the cause of a suburban fire that killed two people, including a firefighter.

Brian Carey, 28, was the first firefighter the Homewood village fire department has ever lost on the job. He was sworn in as a full-time firefighter just seven weeks ago.

Wendell Elias, 84, a World War II veteran, also died in that fire.

The fire was reported at the victim's home about nine o'clock Tuesday night.

Investigators are determining if oxygen tanks may have ignited the blaze.

The chaos of a fire scene was replaced Wednesday evening by the calm of remembrance.

"There were flames coming out of every single window and door of that house and they went in there to save those people and they were valiant in their efforts," said Erik Carlson, witness.

Carey was the first firefighter in the door. It was bravery that cost the Evergreen Park native his life.

Elias also died, but rescuers managed to save his wife, Bertha.

"I'm very proud of him. He died honorably trying to save elderly people. You couldn't ask any more," said Brian Carey, firefighter's father.

Carey was the oldest of four children. He loved the outdoors and action. For five years he drove ambulances, worked two jobs and paid his own way through the fire academy - all so he could serve.

"He was fortunate in that he lived the life he wanted to. Not many people have that. He did and he paid a price for it but I couldn't be prouder," said Carey.

Fellow Homewood firefighter Karra Kopas is being treated for severe burns. The 21-year-old will likely require skin grafts to heal her wounds.

On Wednesday night, other south suburban firefighters paid their respects as neighbors remember the World War II veteran who also died in a flash of flames.

"He was in an electric wheelchair. He'd be out on nice days and if you had a bad day coming home from work you looked at him and you saw the joy he had," said a neighbor.

Visitation for Carey will be held Monday, April 5 at Blake-Lamb Funeral Home, 4727 W. 103rd. St. in Oak Lawn. The funeral will be held Tuesday, April 6 at St. Bernadette, 9343 S. Francisco in Evergreen Park. Burial will be held at Holy Sepulchre Catholic Cemetery, 6001 W. 111th St. in Alsip.