Firefighter honored for saving gas worker after Romeoville house explosion

LOCKPORT, Ill. (WLS) -- A southwest suburban firefighter was honored Tuesday for his heroic action on a chaotic night. Without Phil Hutto and his team, a gas explosion in Romeoville might have had a much more tragic outcome.

With fellow firefighters in attendance, Hutto received the Liberty Mutual Firemark Award.

"More than anything, it's overwhelming," Hutto said.

Humble and understated, the Lockport firefighter gave credit to his entire team that night two months ago when a gas explosion had leveled a two-story townhouse when they responded.

"It was very chaotic, considering just the events leading up to it, natural gas is very volatile," Hutto said.

Being the officer in charge, he said he performed a routine, 360 assessment.

"As I was coming around the corner, that's when I saw a couple of Nicor workers on the outside of the building informing me that one of them was trapped inside," Hutto said.

Despite the fire moving toward them, Hutto dropped his air pack, entered the confined area and rescued the Nicor worker who was gasping for air. That worker is the brother of Mike Smith, who was there Tuesday to say thank you.

"He wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for them," Smith said. "We wanted to be here to meet him and to thank him in person."

"You can say it's part of their job, but at the same time, things like this don't happen. It takes an act of courage. That's why it was a heroic act," said Tim Fallon of Liberty Mutual.

The hero, surrounded by his family, beamed with pride meeting the family of the man he saved.

"To be honest, that's the best feeling, to see them here and hear he's doing well," Hutto said. "He can hang out with his grand kids and his family, which is the most important thing. It's why we do what we do."

Mike Smith said his brother who was rescued, is doing well, but still has long way to go in his recovery. Lt. Hutto said like all firefighters, he was just doing his job making sure the people they take care of and themselves, get to go home the next day.
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