On the evening of December 23, 2011, Des Plaines Fire Department Engine Company 62 responded to a report of a structure fire in a townhome.
Engine 62 was the first arriving fire department unit and Lieutenant Michael Copeland and Firefighter/Paramedic Robert Prieto noted there was a basement fire in the structure. Bystanders were screaming that a baby was still in the basement. Despite the fact that stairs leading from the basement were on fire and smoke levels were increasing, Michael and Robert advanced to the basement, placing themselves at risk, and began searching for the victim.
During the search, Michael and Robert found an older woman unconscious and moved her upstairs to other responders. Returning to the basement they found the baby, also unconscious, under a pile of clothing. The woman had tried to shield the baby from the fire by placing it under the clothes. Both victims (grandmother and grandchild) were resuscitated by other crewmembers on the scene and transported to a hospital. Today, the well being of the patients is very good.
“As with all the members of the Des Plaines Fire Department, the integrity of Michael and Robert is of the highest caliber,” said nominator Alan Wax, Des Plaines Fire Chief. “They possess much pride in their profession and a passion to be the best. The aggressive actions of these personnel clearly saved the lives of these two fire victims.”