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Honoring a Fallen Hero

Honoring a Fallen Hero

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Chicago Tribune via YellowBrix

April 05, 2010

CHICAGO – A wake will be held today for a Homewood firefighter who died while trying to save an elderly couple last week.

Brian Carey, 28, had been on the job just two months when he rushed into the burning home of Wendell and Bertha Elias Tuesday night. Carey’s father, also named Brian, believes his son was hit by a backdraft as he entered the living room.

Wendell Elias died in the extra-alarm fire, but his wife Bertha survived.

The wake for Carey will be held from 2 p.m. until 9 p.m. at the Blake and Lamb Funeral Home, 4727 W. 103rd St. in Oak Lawn. The funeral will be held Tuesday at St. Bernadette’s, 9343 S. Francisco Ave. in Evergreen Park, where Carey lived.

A part-time firefighter, Karra Kopas, was injured in the blaze and underwent skin-graft surgery last week to repair first- and second-degree burns. Kopas is being treated in the burn unit at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

Kopas’ family has released a statement saying Kopas “is recovering well” but that “her main concern is for the loss of her fire department colleague who died in the fire.”

In Homewood, a community of almost 20,000, the entire fire department was on leave last week as neighboring departments and local businesses rallied in support. Several restaurants brought food by the station, said Homewood Mayor Richard Hofeld. At least one local dry cleaner offered to clean all firefighters’ uniforms for free. And a local man was encouraging residents to tie red ribbons around trees to honor the firefighters’ sacrifice.

“They’re just little gestures, but they’re the kind of fabric that holds a community like Homewood together,” Hofeld said.