Firefighters Chris Reischl, left, and Robert Mansfield
Photo credit: Chicago Fire Department
When attempting a rescue, one of Chicago's bravest says firefighters need to be aware of their surroundings and make sure that that they don't get caught up in the moment.
"You don't put yourself in any further than you can pull yourself out," Firefighter Chirs Reischl said.
He and Firefighter Robert Mansfield from Squad 2 helped save a man from a burning structure early New Year's Day last year as conditions inside the structure quickly worsened. In honor of their efforts, both men have been recognized as recipients of the 2010 Firehouse Heroism awards.
The call came in at approximately 1:30 a.m. and arriving crews found the two-story building with fire coming from the front and rear winds. Reischl and Mansfield made their way to the rear of the building where a police officer told them man was trapped inside.
They entered the structure and were met by heavy smoke and zero visibility and once they found the stairway, they realized they wouldn't have much room to operate.
"It was a real narrow staircase," Mansfield said. "We could not work side by side."
Reischl described the the width of the stairway as "about the size of a fat fireman in all of his gear."
Once to the top -- Mansfield in front of the door and Reischl behind him -- they were forced to work quickly as the fire continued to spread.
"There was some black smoke banking down pretty good," Reischl said. "We knew full well we had fire on the other side of the door."
To make things worse, Engine 91 encountered two frozen hydrants and was unable to get water on fire.
Mansfield attempted to pry the door open, but could only get it cracked about six inches. His initial thought was that a dresser was blocking the door so he removed the hinges and kicked it in.
At that point, the door fell on top of the man on the other side and Mansfield removed it and handed it back to Reischl.
At that point they began to hear water spaying into the structure and they were able to move the man down to safety.
"I ended up with his head and we called in to let them know that we had him and ran him out front," Reischl said.
Mansfield said that the man was most likely laying face down and received burns to his back, but that the door landing on top of him may have shielded him from the smoke. When they found him, he was breathing.
Teamwork came into play as the two men, who have worked together for close to nine years, were forced to cope with the heat and smoke.
"Conditions were very bad. If Chris wasn't there, I may have been more hesitant," Mansfield said. "Having him there gave me the peace of mind to stay in there."
Reischl said he was monitoring the progress of the fire the entire time they were inside.
"The situation was getting worse and I knew I wouldn't get myself in too far," he said, adding that if anything happened, his first thought was to get his partner out.
Both men have stayed humble following amid the attention they've received for the rescue and say they were only doing their jobs.
"It's what you do and it's no big deal," Reischl said. "Any one of the other guys -- put any combination of them together -- and they'd have the same result."
His partner echoed his sentiments.
"Things like this happen all the time. It's a rarity that people get recognized," Manfield said. "I'm still the same guy as I was before the rescue."