Jermaine Pelt joined the Fire Department in 2005 and spent his entire career serving the Far South Side.

By Mack Liederman

WEST PULLMAN — Chicago firefighter Jermaine Pelt died while battling an extra-alarm fire Tuesday morning, officials said.

Pelt’s crew responded to a house fire around 3:15 a.m. Tuesday near 120th and Wallace streets, Chicago Fire Commissioner Annette Nance Holt said at an early morning press conference.

The fire rapidly expanded from the attic of one home to others, Holt said.

“We had three buildings going at the same time,” said Holt, fighting back tears.

Pelt, 49, was on the hose line in an “exposed building” when conditions worsened, Holt said. The crew was ordered out the buildings.

“But when they pulled the line out, he wasn’t there,” Holt said. “That’s when they pulled him out.”

Paramedics tried to save Pelt on the way to a nearby hospital, but he died, Holt said. The cause of death is unknown and is under investigation, Holt said.

Two other firefighters were injured, but not seriously, she said.

Pelt joined the Fire Department in 2005 and spent his entire career serving the Roseland community, Holt said.

He celebrated his birthday in March and recently walked his daughter down the aisle, Holt said. Pelt also has a 6-year-old son, Holt said.

The fire commissioner said she knew him personally.

“Jermaine is our family. And when we lose one of our members, it takes a toll on us,” Holt said. “People just don’t know what firefighters and paramedics go through daily, when they respond to these calls not knowing if they’ll come home the next day. That’s what we saw today.”

Fellow firefighters later escorted Pelt’s body to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office in Near West Side, offering a prayer in his honor.

Multiple state and federal agencies are investigating the fire to determine how it started and spread. Officials with the Illinois State Fire Marshal, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Chicago Police and and the city’s Office of Fire Investigation Division were on the scene Tuesday, officials said.