Club honors top firefighter
By Brian Stanley firstname.lastname@example.org October 8, 2013 9:26PM
Firefighter of the Year Eric Clem (left) listens as Chief Joe Formhals describes his efforts while pulling a man from a burning semi truck earlier this year. | Brian Stanley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 10, 2013 6:39AM
JOLIET — A firefighter was recognized Tuesday for his daring efforts in a rescue attempt this spring.
Apparatus Operator Eric Clem was named the Exchange Club’s Firefighter of the Year during a luncheon at the Jacob Henry Mansion.
On April 10, two semi-trucks collided and caught fire at Interstate 80 and Houbolt Road. Clem, who works A shift at Station 7 by Joliet Regional Airport, was among the first firefighters to reach to burning trucks, where a bystander told him a driver still was in one the cabs.
“It was sheared and mangled, so I had to climb up onto the cab to pull him out, while (other firefighters) were spraying water over us to keep the fuel pushed back,” Clem said.
“While placing himself in great danger amidst flames, exploding tires, (400 gallons of) leaking fuel and the uncertainty of the stability of the wreckage, he showed no fear or concern for himself,” Lt. Floyd Woods wrote in Clem’s nomination.
While the truck driver did not survive his injuries, Woods said Clem’s initiative “exemplified the essence of fire service.”
Clem grew up in Plainfield and first thought of becoming a firefighter in high school. He joined the department in 1999.
Chief Joe Formhals praised Clem’s work ethic and said every firefighter on the department would describe him as “honest and trustworthy.”
“He has taken his turn on many of the busiest ambulances in the city, never once complaining about having to get up in the middle of the night to handle a call,” Formhals said.
“It’s very humbling (because) I know there were other worthy calls this year,” Clem told Exchange Club members. “I was part of a team of 16 firefighters who responded and it took everybody’s efforts to make this possible.”
“I feel blessed to receive an award just for doing something that I love,” Clem added.