Lt. Kevin Ward is the third Chicago Fire Department member to die in the line of duty this year. “We haven’t healed from the last few deaths we’ve had,” Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt said. “We continue to try to lift each other up, but it’s hard when it keeps happening.”
Grieving firefighters remembered Lt. Kevin Ward on Tuesday as being “adventure-driven,” an avid reader of philosophy and a “great guy to work with.”
The longtime Chicago firefighter died from injuries he suffered more than two weeks ago after he became trapped in the basement of a burning home near O’Hare International Airport.
Ward, 59, died Monday night at Loyola Medical Center, where he was taken from the fire in the 8300 block of West Balmoral Avenue on Aug. 11, according to the Chicago Fire Department. He was surrounded by family, officials said.
“This is very tragic for us,” Chicago Fire Department Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt told reporters after Ward’s body was taken by procession to the Cook County medical examiner’s Near West Side office.
Ward is the third fire department member to die in the line of duty this year. Lt. Jan Tchoryk died of a heart attack while battling a blaze in a Gold Coast high-rise April 5 — one day after firefighter Jermaine Pelt died in a South Side fire.
“We haven’t healed from the last few deaths we’ve had,” Nance-Holt said. “We continue to try to lift each other up, but it’s hard when it keeps happening.”
Ward died of complications from respiratory issues he suffered in the fire, department spokesman Larry Langford said. He became trapped in the basement of a burning home and was critically hurt, he said.
It’s unclear how Ward became trapped in the basement. The fire department was never able to interview him, according to Langford, who added Ward was divorced and did not have any children.
Although initially conscious, Ward was intubated right after he was pulled from the fire and remained intubated until he died, Langford said.
Two other fire firefighters injured in the blaze were released from hospitals, Langford said.
Ward was with the department for 27 years, Nance-Holt said. He was stationed at Truck 9 on the Far Northwest Side, where purple and black bunting hung from the station, and flags flew at half-staff Tuesday. He transferred there about three years ago from the station at O’Hare.
Bob Arems worked with Ward on Truck 9.
“He was a great guy to work with,” said Arems, who retired from the department last year. “It was a brotherhood. It’s tough. You never want to lose a brother.”
Ward was “adventure driven,” so the department was a natural fit, Nance-Holt said. He was also an avid reader of philosophy and could talk about almost any topic. she said.
Ward’s body arrived at the medical examiner’s shortly after 12:40 p.m. in an ambulance followed by Truck 9.
Under a massive America flag draped over the street by two fire trucks, dozens of firefighters and police officers lined up along the street and saluted as an ambulance carried his body past.
Interim Chicago Police Supt. Fred Waller stood solemnly in line on the corner of Harrison and Leavitt streets next to Chicago Police Deputy Chief Larry Snelling, Mayor Brandon Johnson’s pick for the city’s next superintendent.
In a statement, Mayor Johnson expressed his sympathies.
“On behalf of the City of Chicago, I offer my sincerest condolences on the passing of Chicago Fire Department Lieutenant Kevin Ward. I pray for the peace of his family, friends and loved ones during this most difficult time. Let us keep Truck #9 and all our dedicated first responders in our hearts as we honor Lt. Ward’s life and memory.”