Two Joliet firefighters honored nationally for heroism
By Brian Stanley email@example.com August 4, 2012 8:50PM
Tim Barrowman (left) and Mike Persha, Joliet Firefighters of the Year, received national recognition for rescuing two women from the third story of a burning apartment building in November. | Brian Stanley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 6, 2012 6:22AM
It was a good soup. It was a good call.
Joliet Firefighter Tim Barrowman had done the shopping for Company 7 on Nov. 27 and made what he recalled was a pretty good soup. He and firefighter Mike Persha had just finished eating it about 5:45 p.m. when they were called to the Twin Oaks apartment complex.
A resident in one of the 12 units in a three-level building had been making his own dinner when he went into the living room and left a pan of oil unattended. He walked back in the kitchen to find the stove in flames.
He reportedly went to get a hose from the hallway, but the fire became too intense for him to get back inside. Meanwhile, flames went out the window and got under the side of the mansard roof — shooting up into the third floor and attic.
Cue Company 7.
With Barrowman arriving on a fire engine and Persha in an ambulance, the two noticed two women yelling from a bedroom window while smoke billowed out behind them. They began extending a ladder while other firefighters began searching the building for a missing child.
The youth had been able to get out already, but Barrowman and Persha had to climb up and knock out two windows so the women could reach the ladder. After helping them to the ground the firefighters gave the victims to another ambulance crew and went back to battle the blaze.
The building was severely damaged and some residents were left homeless, but no one was injured. One of the women the firefighters pulled from the window was treated for smoke inhalataion.
“This was one of the bigger fires I’ve seen. We’re still relatively new guys,” Barrowman said. Both he and Persha have been in the department for six years.
Neither man thought much more about saving the women from that fire until they learned Battalion Chief Mike Stromberg had nominated them for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Firefighters of the Year, which they won.
But Stromberg also submitted the report to Firehouse Magazine, a national trade publication that gave the two Heroism Awards in the April issue.
“That was more of a surprise,” Persha said. “I’ve got some buddies working on other departments who called me about it.”
“I’m proud of the department because it’s one thing to be recognized locally, but (the national award) shows we do have some good things going on here,” Barrowman said.
The good things from the rescue continued with a final surprise last month. Barrowman and Persha already had received a $100 check from the VFW, but they were not expecting to each receive $100 from the magazine and another $100 for Company 7.
While neither man was seeking publicity, they immediately agreed to donate all their stipends to the Joliet Area Hospice.
“All of us here have known someone they’ve helped and it’s in our run area,” Barrowman said. “It just seemed like the thing to do.”