Chicago firefighter dies after fighting Southwest Side blaze

November 2, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Captain Herbert Johnson died of injuries suffered while fighting a house fire Friday evening.

Captain Johnson was described by Mayor Rahm Emanuel as "larger than life."

The fire broke out in the 2300 block of west 50th Place Friday evening in the Gage Park neighborhood.

Doctors at University of Chicago Hospitals spent quite a while trying to save Captain Johnson, who suffered serious burns to his face and neck.

His respiratory system was seriously compromised and he went into cardiac arrest, from which he never recovered.

A solemn procession of police and fire vehicles accompany Johnson's body to the Medical Examiners office Friday night. The 54-year-old was well-known and loved by his second family, the fire department.

"Captain Johnson was working to put out a fire in an attic and he suffered injuries," said Supt. Jose Santiago. "He was quickly removed and transported to University of Chicago Hospitals. Captain Johnson suffered second- and third-degree burns. He went into cardiac arrest."

"He touched everybody that ran into contact with him," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. "He was a larger than life person."

It was in the attic where Johnson became trapped suffering second- and third-degree burns.

Residents were able to get out safely.

Johnson was would have reached 33 years on the job in February. He was recently promoted to captain.

Many of his fellow firefighters are overcome with emotion on Friday night.

"We lost a piece of our heart and our soul today," said Firefighters Union President Tim Ryan. "Herbie is everything the Chicago Fire Department is about."

One other firefighter was injured in this blaze. He was taken to Christ Hospital in good condition.

Capt. Johnson is survived by his wife, Susan, and three children. He also come from a family of firefighters and Chicago Police officers.

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