Last week, Ron Lucarini, paid-on-call fire chief retired after 40 years of service to the community. Almost a hundred Chicago Heights paid, POC, and past firefighters stopped by to wish Ronnie well.

Mementos from his career filled two tables in the firehouse. There were many photos from newspapers of Ronnie fighting fires, toy fire engines and awards. One of the most treasured is a thank you letter from President Ronald Reagan. The President thanked Ronnie for his service while visiting Chicago Heights on June 28, 1985.

“I walked into the fire house to see if I liked it, I stayed for 40 years,” Ron said. “I have a lot of great stories … One of the good memories was an outcome of a fire on 14th street. A lady named Frankie lost her husband in a house fire. She had her life savings in a paper bag. The roof caved in and every thing was impassable. Chief Puinti and I went inside. I kicked some wood away that was blocking the flow of water. As the water was leaving the second floor, here comes a paper bag with her life savings. We gave it to her and she hugged us both so tight and couldn’t thank us enough.”

“There was a house fire right down the street from # 1 station” recalls Ronnie. “I was the first one at the house. Myself and a police officer tried to go in the back door, I got down to crawl into the kitchen but the heat and smoke were to intense. After the fire was out, I went back into the kitchen and I was about two feet away from one child. I felt really bad. I kept thinking if only I could have held my breath for a few more seconds maybe I could have gotten him out. He and his two other brothers died.”