Archive for category Reader submission

Of interest … Scott Stewart

Excerpts from the

In Scott Stewart’s home office, photographs from his career highlights cover three of the four walls. The 61-year-old was laid off in 2013 from his job as a Chicago Sun-Times photographer. After 28 years working for the newspaper, he had to shift to his former career as a firefighter. 

Stewart is a third-generation firefighter. His paternal grandfather worked for the Rome Fire Department while his uncle served the Cave Springs Fire Department, both in Georgia.  Stewart and his father spent their Sundays visiting Chicago firehouses because his father was a friend of Chicago Fire Commissioner Robert J. Quinn.

He lost his father at age 8 and his mother when he was 16. That’s when he received a call from Quinn, then head of the Chicago Civil Defense Fire and Rescue Division, who encouraged Stewart to volunteer. He spent the next decade as a volunteer where he rose to the rank of captain.

After his time as a volunteer, he met Cathy, his wife of 35 years, who was a volunteer for the Merrionette Park Fire Department.

Stewart picked up his first camera at age 8, and his neighbor Fred Stein helped nurture a lifelong passion. Their friendship led to Stewart’s first job in journalism at the Chicago Daily News, where Stein was a photographer. 

During the 70s, Stewart worked for Central Camera. His boss let him open up a credit line allowing him to purchase his first camera. After returning home, he heard sirens and headed to the corner of 55th and Hyde Park, where two CTA buses had crashed. He took pictures of the scene and offered the photos to the Daily News, Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune and The Associated Press. By the time the papers bought his pictures, he earned almost $500, enough to pay off the store credit.

He studied photojournalism at Columbia College and graduated in 1977.  Years later, Stewart was hired by the Sun-Times as a darkroom technician and then a photographer. He once flew on Air Force One during Ronald Reagan’s presidency where Reagan called him into the plane’s Oval Office to congratulate him on the birth of his daughter.

The next year, he was covering Chicago violence which ultimately lead to a 2011 Pulitzer Prize. As school children walked on the sidewalk across the street from a liquor store, four gang members stood outside the shop and one had a gun. His photo captured a gun and drug deal, with the children in view.

Stewart’s 28-years with the Sun-Times ended on May 30, 2013 when the newspaper dismissed its photography staff.  He worked at the Evergreen Park Fire Department as head of the photo unit after the layoff, but couldn’t find work as a full-time photographer. Merrionette Park offered him his old job as a firefighter where he was recently promoted to lieutenant. In addition to working as Evergreen Park’s photographer, he’s a member of the MABAS Division 21 Cause and Origin Team.

He worked six jobs at one point, but all those efforts to pay the bills came to a screeching halt in March. Stewart was out of work after being diagnosed with a detached retina. He received an emergency vitrectomy in April that left him recovering for nine weeks. A short time later his retina was detached again. Another doctor promised he’d return to photography, and a second operation left him with a long recovery and no work for another six weeks. An online fundraising page helped him through that troubling time.

Despite everything Stewart says he wouldn’t change any of it. He’s stayed positive with the help of his three favorite things: photography, the fire department, and his beloved Cathy. He’ll always be a photographer and fire fan, and he having found a way to merge both passions into one.

thanks Dan

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Ignite the Spirit Valentine’s Ball

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Of interest … Broadview FD Explorer

Excerpts from

Having been certified in CPR for a few years, 18-year-old Chris Psenicka, who is in the Emergency Medical Technician program at the Technology Center of DuPage, jumped into action Dec. 1 after seeing a jogger collapsed on the sidewalk. He performed chest compressions and rescue breaths on the woman until paramedics arrived.

He assessed the victim and began CPR when he didn’t detect a pulse. He was able to perform chest compressions until her pulse came back, stopping only when the paramedics arrived. The victim was taken to the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery. 

Psenicka, who is also in the explorer program with the Broadview Fire Department, hopes to become a firefighter after graduating from high school. His mother is a firefighter and paramedic and his father is a retired lieutenant with the La Grange Park Fire Deptartment.

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Of interest … Forest Park Firefighter Lindsey Hankus

Excerpts from the

At exactly 14 hours, 21 minutes and five seconds, Lindsey Hankus crossed the finish line in Panama City, Florida, after an exhausting Ironman that included a 2.4-mile swim in the Gulf of Mexico, 112-mile bike ride down a deserted highway and 26.2-mile run through a state park. Hankus achieved her personal best race time at that Ironman in November, which many consider the most difficult race in the world. 

Her banner Ironman followed a first-place finish at the Chicago Triathlon in August. Hankus, a Forest Park firefighter, was the first woman firefighter to cross the line on Columbus Drive. She has run six races this year, mostly half marathons to train for the recent Ironman. But even in those shorter races she set record times. She credits her 2017 races, the best of her career and first time competing since having a child, to a regimen of chilling out, drinking craft beer and not caring about what time she crosses the finish line. 

Hankus, 36, began 2017 aiming just to have fun and finish the Ironman. She hadn’t raced since giving birth to her son Frank, six years before. Prior to that, she competed in Ironmans in Florida and Hawaii. 

To train, Hankus joined a local triathlon club. The group met daily, but consistently working out with the group was impossible because of her work schedule. She works a 24-hour shift at the firehouse and then has 48 hours off, week in and week out. At the firehouse, she walks on the treadmill after dinner to keep in shape and clear her head. 

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Of interest … Ware County , GA

Excerpts from 

A Georgia mom said she was heartbroken when no one showed up at her autistic son’s 7th birthday.

“He kept saying his friends were just getting ready, going to get presents, that’s why they were late,” Amanda Bridges said, adding that her son invited everyone in his class.

When Holden realized none of his classmates showed up to his party, he started crying. So his father did the first thing he could think of – he flagged down a passing fire truck and asked Ware County firefighters if they could stop by the party.

The firefighters ended up showing up in a fire truck, along with several EMTs, two ambulances, and several police officers. They brought Holden presents, a fireman’s hat, and a badge.

“He was super excited,” Ware County Fire Lt. Drew Mccarthy said. “His daddy said he always wanted to be a firefighter, so that made it special.”

Now, Holden also wants to be a police officer and EMT.

Amanda said what could have been a lonely birthday for Holden became one of his most memorable.

“We were all crying, it was very emotional for all of us,” Amanda said. “My son has always been my hero, but they are our new heroes.”

In a Facebook post, Amanda thanked all the emergency personnel who showed up at her son’s birthday party. The post has been liked and shared thousands of times.

“They didn’t do it for any rewards or recognition,” she said, “they did it out of the kindness of their hearts.”

From Amanda Bridges’ Facebook page:

The Ware County Firefighters, Police Officers, and EMTs will always have a special place in this momma’s heart. When no one showed up at my Autistic son’s party, my husband had to leave due to being upset himself, but also because he couldn’t find his phone which he thought was at our nearby house. While he was out, he saw a fire truck and flagged it down. He explained to the firemen the situation with Holden’s party and asked if they could stop by. The firemen stated that they would love to, but they had to get permission first. Well, when they showed up, it was beyond our wildest imagination. They had called in some more reinforcements and brought a police officer and emts. The firemen even brought him a birthday gift. Holden said the firefighters are his heroes and they brought him the best birthday gift ever!! He now wants to be a firefighter, police officer, and emt when he grows up. Thank you Ware County fire, police, and emt departments!! You guys made a little boy’s bad day into a memorable one with all the adults in tears!!

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Overseas request

From a reader:

I m over in England, do you have anyone i can ask questions about Chicago FD?
I m over in 2018.


Of interest … Evanston Fire Department

Excerpts from the Chicago

Evanston firefighters told stories of how they got into the profession and, for some, what they miss the most from their earlier firefighting days, all as they sipped coffee Thursday with residents.

“I went to school for fine arts, painting,” said Howie Lakin, an EFD fire apparatus operator.

Firefighting requires him to keep both his mind and body in shape, he said, and gives him time to practice art on the side.

The staff of Engine 23 joined with Evanston’s past and present fire chiefs for the “Coffee with a Firefighter” community socializing event at Berry Pike Cafe in downtown Evanston. A few residents sat down for conversation, asking things like what was so attractive about working as a firefighter.

Captain Tony Yee said he first worked as a hospital emergency room nurse before he gave firefighting a shot.

“I went to my first fire academy and thought, ‘hey, this is fun,'” Yee recalled.

Firefighter Luke Holthaus recalled that when he was growing up in Glenview, his neighbor two doors down was a fireman.

And Fire Chief Brian Scott said he comes from a family of police officers and iron workers, but decided to be a firefighter after an uncle, the only other firefighter in the family, took him for a ride in an engine when Scott was 14.

“I was hooked,” said Scott, who added that as chief, he misses riding on the engine every day.

The Evanston Fired Department has a current staff of 110, a head count that has “been the same for the past 30 years,” said former police Chief Greg Klaiber. He now works as director of emergency management for Northwestern University.


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Overseas request

I’m over in England and am planning a visit to Chicago next year.
Do you have anyone i could correspond with re questions on my visit to photo apparatus?
Mark Corfield.


NIPSTA fire academy blood drive


Of interest … Pancake Breakfast

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