Chicago Fire Department mourning after 2 firefighters die in line of duty a day apart

Family remembers firefighter killed in Gold Coast high-rise fire; cause of blaze ruled accidental

ByEvelyn Holmes, Liz Nagy, and Christian Piekos WLS logo
Friday, April 7, 2023
Veteran firefighter who died in the line of duty 'wanted to make sure everyone was safe,' cousin says
Lieutenant Jan Tchoryk, 55, died after responding to a high-rise fire in Gold Coast near Lake Shore Drive Wednesday morning.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Chicago Fire Department is in mourning after two firefighters died in the line of duty just a day apart.

Lieutenant Jan Tchoryk, 55, died after responding to a high-rise fire in Gold Coast near Lake Shore Drive Wednesday morning.

Tchoryk died of hypertensive-arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease, which translates to a heart attack due to natural causes, according to autopsy results released by the Cook County medical examiner Thursday.

He led the charge up the stairs before fire officials said Tchoyrk collapsed on the 11th floor while climbing flights of stairs to the 27th floor where that fire was raging in a single unit.

READ MORE: Chicago high-rise cited for inspection violations before deadly Gold Coast fire

He was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he later died.

As the veteran officer on duty for Ladder 10, that was his job, but, his family said it was also just part of his DNA

"Janny didn't care who it was, he just wanted to help them. He just wanted to make sure everyone was safe," said Tchoryk's cousin, Tanya Adams.

Tchoryk's family and colleagues say he was never without a smile -- the happiest kind of guy and an avid motorcyclist.

Adams said she'd just enjoyed a long dinner and phone calls with Tchoryk and his wife, Natalia, in the days and hours before his death.

"He was always concerned about everyone else and never concerned about himself - ever," Adams said. "He was very selfless."

Fire officials said the fire was caused by combustibles being too close to a heat-generating appliance.

The Chicago Fire Department Foundation is now helping to support the families of two fallen firefighters, as well as their own department that's reeling.

Firefighter Jermaine Pelt died of smoke inhalation Tuesday while fighting a fire on the city's Far South Side.

A separate CFD fund for retirees, widows and children will provide security for their families' uncertain futures.

"My goal -- our goal -- is to make sure his child has every opportunity to do things in life that he would be able to do had his father been here to provide for him. It gut wrenching when you lose one of your own," said Captain Tony Martin, with CFD EMWQ retirees, widows, and children's fund.

The Chicago Fire Department family may be in mourning but Chris Hasbrook, Chicago Fire Department Foundation board member, wants them to know they are not alone.

"I met with the family yesterday, and just holding the lieutenant's mother's hand... no one should have to go through that," Hasbrook said.

Hasbrook is among those organizing support for the families of the fallen firefighters.

It's only been a day since Lieutenant Tchoryk died, but his firehouse is back to work, ready for that alarm bell to toll.

SEE ALSO: Chicago fire: Firefighter Jermaine Pelt dies, 2 others injured in West Pullman, CFD says

Truck Ladder 10 rumbles into its Old Town firehouse, after heading out on an emergency call.

Firefighters standby to guide that shining red truck in, still with little time to process, that just 24 hours earlier, they lost a father-figure of sorts: Lieutenant Jan Tchoryk.

"I truly think it hasn't sunken in," firefighter Rey Vargas said. "I'll be honest. I still, it's still surreal."

Vargas has been a Chicago firefighter for 15 years and worked closely with Tchoryk, a veteran firefighter seen by many as a 'jack-of-all-trades.

For the second day in a row, Chicago Fir Commissioner Annette Nance Holt announces the death of a Chicago firefighter.

"He knew a little bit about everything," Vargas said. "Anything you needed help on, he knew about it, whether it's problems with your lawnmower all the way up to fire fighting tactics."

Vargas said he was just getting off his shift Wednesday morning and having a cup-of-coffee with Tchoryk when the call came in.

"When we hear those bells go off, it's go time," Vargas said. "Everything else is out the window and we are focused on doing our job."

Rey like so many other firefighters never thought this quick shift change in the firehouse would be his last with Tchoryk.

"You don't expect this to happen," Vargas said. "I believe my last words to him were actually, 'Hey, good luck guys.' Literally that as he walked off."

Fire officials said Tchoryk collapsed on the 11th floor of a Lake Shore Drive high-rise, climbing to the 27th where a single unit burned.

"We'll push, we'll do anything we can," Vargas said. "These guys push. They push hard. They push past the limits of what they think they can handle."

As the firefighters of Engine 4, Tower Ladder 10 stand at the ready to save lives. Vargas said Tchoryk's memory lives on in their everyday heroism.

"I'm going to honor him by doing the best that I can in this job," Vargas said.

On Tuesday, 49-year-old firefighter Jermaine Pelt died trying to put out an extra alarm fire in the West Pullman neighborhood. Pelt served with the department for 18 years.

For the second day in a row, Chicago Fir Commissioner Annette Nance Holt announces the death of a Chicago firefighter.

An autopsy found that Pelt died from carbon monoxide toxicity due to inhalation of smoke and soot

There are now two firehouses in Chicago with black and purple bunting displayed to remember these fallen firefighters.

Three other firefighters were injured in the high-rise fire, CFD officials said, and are in fair to serious condition. Two other people were injured, as well.

Funeral arrangements for the firefighters have not been released.

The Chicago Fire Department's EMWQ Retirees', Widows' & Children's Fund is supporting the families of the fallen firefighters. To donate, visit A public fundraiser is also being planned at Leona's Pizzeria & Restaurant, 3877 N. Elston, on F April 21, .