Illinois Firefighter: 'I Wouldn't Watch My Dad Go in Alone'
Off-duty firefighters helped rescue family

Updated: 11-05-2007 01:38:54 PM

The Chicago Sun Times

His wife accidentally took his car keys when she left their Round Lake home Saturday morning. So Ron Echtenacher Jr., a Countryside firefighter, asked his dad, also a firefighter, for a lift to work.

Ron Echtenacher Sr., who works for the Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Department, had planned to babysit his 2-year-old granddaughter while his son was at the firehouse.

Instead, the pair wound up making a detour -- with 2-year-old Abigail in tow -- to a two-story house engulfed in flames, just a few doors down from the younger Echtenacher's home.

Father and son helped three people get out of the house with the help of a third off-duty firefighter from the Grayslake Fire Department who lived nearby.

Additional crews rescued a fourth person from the basement of the now destroyed home in northwest suburban Round Lake. No serious injuries were reported.

As for Abigail, her dad asked passerby Lisa Jarratt to watch her while he and his father dashed into the house without any protective gear.

"I wouldn't have been able to stand on the side of the street and watch my dad go in alone," Echtenacher Jr. said. "This was something that we had to do."

The Echtenachers said they were the first firefighters on the scene of the 7:20 a.m. blaze in the 2700 block of Masters Lane. They couldn't enter through the front door, so they went around back.

Once inside, they saw three people "running around the house . . . screaming for their daughter," Echtenacher Jr. said. "We pulled them out, then started searching the bedrooms upstairs."

Part-time Grayslake firefighter Jim Foster helped with the search. But as the smoke and heat intensified, the firefighters were forced to evacuate.

By that time, on-duty fire crews from Round Lake and other suburban departments had arrived to douse the flames. They found the fourth person, a young woman, conscious and alert in the basement of the house. She was treated for smoke inhalation.

Grayslake Fire Capt. Jon Cokefair said Foster and the Echtenachers "did a great job -- a fantastic job. They made a good knock on the fire to get inside and do their searches."

Watching the action from Jarratt's car, Abigail Echtenacher was less impressed. "She said, 'Hot clouds. Hot clouds. Did Daddy do that?' " Jarratt said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.