Visitation held for Homewood firefighter

April 6, 2010 4:32:59 AM PDT
Family, friends and fellow firefighters paid their respects Monday to Homewood firefighter Brian Carey, 28, who was killed in a house fire last week.

Carey had been on the job for just over a month when he died while trying to rescue an elderly couple from their burning home.

Carey was the first firefighter in Homewood to be killed on the job. Those who knew him said he was living out his life-long dream of being a firefighter.

The wake for Brian Carey began at 1 p.m. Monday afternoon. Within the first hour, the number of people wishing to pay final respects wrapped all the way around the funeral home.

"Brian Carey - HFD - the bravest of the brave," reads the sign outside Village Hall. Inside, residents, many of whom never met Brian Carey, left words of tribute in a memorial book. One writes, "Everyone should live doing what they love. Brian honored that belief."

In all its years, the Village of Homewood had never lost a firefighter in the line of duty until last week, when first-year firefighter Carey, as part of a rescue effort, charged into what would become a blazing inferno.

Carey would lose his life. So would Wendell Elias, an 87-year-old World War II veteran who was trapped inside his home.

On the block where the fire occurred there are red ribbons tied around trees. In fact, the same is true of many trees throughout the village.

Mary Bohlen says it's hard to find red ribbon anywhere in Homewood.

"We're not always good about telling people who are important to us how important they are, and this is just an opportunity for the village to show their outpouring of gratitude," said Bohlen.

Monday afternoon, at the funeral home, the line of mourners continued to build. Many of those in line were from fire departments throughout the area.

Aron Bresnan of Rosemont was among them. He spent eight weeks in the fire academy with Carey and immediately recognized his dedication.

"Everyday we got there, he busted his butt and never said anything. He just wanted to do his job," said Bresnan.

It's fair to say that many if not most of those in uniform did not know Brian Carey, but they do know what he did and what he loved.

"The fact that you're surrounded by this brotherhood, and sisterhood of people who are in service to each other and with each other is very helpful," said Brother Paul Ickes, Brother Rice High School.

One of those firefighters expected to be on hand Monday and for the funeral Tuesday is 21-year-old Karra Kopas, the firefighter severely burned in last week's fire that took Brian Carey's life. She underwent skin grafts and operations at University of Chicago and was released from there Monday.