CFD getting ready for firefighters' funerals

December 24, 2010 (CHICAGO)

At the same time, funeral arrangements have been made for the victims of the South Side building fire that killed two firefighters.

The visitation for firefighter Edward Stringer is Monday at 3 p.m. at Blake Lamb Funeral home in Oak Lawn. His funeral is set for Tuesday at 10 a.m. at St. Rita of Cascia Chapel in Chicago.

Visitation for firefighter Corey Ankum is Wednesday starting at 2 p.m. at Apostolic Church of God in Chicago. His wake is Thursday at 10 a.m. at the same location. His funeral follows an hour later.

The cause of Wednesday's fire does not come as a surprise. Wood or trash in the rear of the building started on fire, investigators say, from an open flame ignition which means it was a fire that was set.

Who and why hasn't been determined, but the theory early on was that it was probably a warming fire set by squatters.

It was a fire that is producing two funerals.

The uniform may get tattered and torn over time, and the fit may change, but with two funerals next week, it is critical that everyone's dress uniforms be right.

Over the last couple days, hundreds of firefighters have been trading in the old for the new at the Chicago Fire Department clothing center.

It's about properly honoring the men who died.

"I feel real personal about this," said firefighter T.C. Britton. "I'm blaming myself because I feel like I shoulda been there."

Britton came to work early Wednesday morning at Tower Ladder 34. But the truck with Corey Ankum on it had already left for the fire.

Britton is haunted by the thought what if I'd just come a little bit earlier. Britton that day was Ankum's relief.

"It's really sad because when I see the guy on TV it's like he's looking at me," Britton said. "That's the way I feel. It's like, Where's my relief at? I try not to feel that way, but it's hard not to feel that way."

Larry O'Brien was updating his uniform too Friday. O'Brien was one of those injured when the roof collapsed. He's got leg ligament damage, and staples in his scalp, and he didn't much want to talk about what he has to live with.

The idea at the clothing center, and at the firehouses, is you keep each other up. "And the right thing to say is, Listen, we're all hurting, and then you try to put a little smile on there -- you wait for the right moment -- whether it's the jacket too tight on ya -- you know, something," said Anthony Tobar, Chicago Fire Department.

Just a touch of humor can go a long way.

"You have two ways to go. You can cry or you can laugh," said Bob Zwick, Chicago Fire Department clothing center. "Might as well laugh. Absolutely, I've found that to be the case."

Tobar was badly burned in a fire 10 years ago this week, and then was hospitalized after the LaSalle Bank fire six years ago, so he knows something That knowledge helps with finding the right thing to say at a very tough time.

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