Excerpts from the ChicagoTribune.com:

Robert Sempoch has responded to a quite a few fires in his 10-year career with the Park Ridge Fire Department. But none occurred as close to home as the one he encountered in June. That’s because the fire broke out in the sixth floor of Sempoch’s own Palatine apartment complex. But even though he wasn’t on the job, officials say he took charge of the situation.

Palatine Fire Chief Scott Andersen sent a letter to Park Ridge Fire Chief Jeff Sorensen complimenting Sempoch for helping evacuate the floor and contain the fire to the apartment unit in which it started, simply by closing the open door. An open door could have easily caused the fire to quickly spread to the hallway and common area of the building, confronting residents who were trying to get out.

Sempoch said he was alerted to the fire when the fire alarm in his building sounded early on the morning of June 10. Sempoch, who lives alone, exited his apartment and noticed smoke in the hallway. Looking for the source, he saw a man step out of unit 609. Inside the apartment, Sempoch said he saw fire.

“I asked him to stay outside,” Sempoch said of the man. “Then I went to my side [of the building] to get my fire extinguisher and called 911 to report the fire. When I came back, unfortunately the person was again inside the apartment.” Sempoch said the man was attempting to put out the fire with an extinguisher. Sempoch also tried to assist, but the fire was too big, he said, and he pushed the resident out of the unit and closed the door.

“At that point, the smoke was almost all the way to the ground, so I went back to my west side hallway and waited for the first firefighters to arrive,” he said. “I told them where the fire was and I tried to get a couple of people out.”

Sempoch knocked on doors, alerting residents to the smoke and fire so they could evacuate.

The only individual injured in the fire was the man who lived in the unit where the fire started [who] was treated for burns at Loyola Medical Center. Unit 609 was destroyed, other apartments on the floor sustained smoke damage and water damage occurred in some fifth-floor units.