Monday, August 9, 2010


Deanese Williams, Pat Curry, Dawn Rhodes

Christopher Wheatley always wanted to be a firefighter.

He studied hard and trained even harder, his colleagues recalled just hours after he plunged to his death this morning while battling a fire at a West Loop restaurant.
"It's not going to be easy," said Scott Buckley, who worked with Wheatley at Engine Co. 5. "He'll always he part of our team. ... He'll never be replaced."
Wheatley, 31, was carrying an ax and a hose up a fire escape on the side of Avec restaurant, 615 W. Randolph, when he fell about 35 feet around 12:30 a.m., according to Fire Cmsr. Robert Hoff.
He was pronounced dead at Stroger Hospital at 1:19 a.m. Dozens of police and fire cars, their lights flashing, lined the streets as Ambulance 15 carried Wheatley's body to the Cook County medical examiner's office. Officers silently saluted.
Fire officials said the last firefighter to die while on duty was William Grant, who died on the way to a call when the fire truck he was in collided with a bus and flipped over. The last time a firefighter died while battling a fire was February 1998, when Patrick King and Anthony Lockhart were killed fighting a blaze a tire store in Beverly.
Wheatley was responding to a grease-chute fire at the restaurant when he slipped while carrying up to 75 pounds of equipment, officials said.
"They had to go up to the roof to open the area where the grease chute extended through," Hoff said, his voice choking up. "Firefighter Christopher Wheatley was making his way up to the roof on a ladder that was attached to the building, carrying his equipment. Apparently he slipped and fell to the ground, causing critical injuries.
"They worked to save his life but it was too late," Hoff said. "He left a mother, father, a sister, and a fiance. He was one of our finest."
Wheatley became a paramedic in 2000 and a firefighter in 2008. Hoff said Wheatley was very well-liked and always had a smile on his face. "He was one of our best."
Firefighters at Wheatley's firehouse talked about his strength and his passion for his job.
"Chris always wanted to be a firefighter," said Brian Reese, with Engine Co. 5. "He was young, he was strong, he was aggressive.
"We're going to miss his strength, his enthusiasm," he added. "The way he brought a smile to the firehouse will be missed."
Buckley called Wheatley "a great guy, a step-up guy, great shape, worked out every day."
"He loved his sports, loved to ride on his boat with his fiance, loved his family."
Both Reese and Buckley said Wheatley was extremely dedicated, taking rescue training courses and teaching classes himself on off days.
"He brought enthusiasm and fun to the firehouse," said. "We have a serious job -- we have to be at the top of our game -- but you also have to have some fun at the firehouse to lighten up how hard our job is, how difficult."
Friends said Wheatley was a big sports fan -- particularly the Bears.
"I'm sure you'll find plenty of people who will sing his praises," said a neighbor in the building where Wheatley lived on the Near West Side. "I pray for these guys every day."

Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and all of the CFD.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Chris for your service to Chicago!