|Agency||Chicago Fire Department|
|Type of Firefighter||Career|
|Age Range||56 to 60|
|Date of Birth||9/22/1939|
|Date of Death||3/24/1995|
|Cause of Death||Stress/Overexertion|
|Nature of Death||Heart attack|
|Attribute of Death||[not applicable]|
|Type of Duty||Firefighting operations|
On March 24, 1995, Engineer Donald J. Kaczka of Engine 28 of the Chicago Fire Department died in the line of duty while fighting a refuse fire on S. Laflin Avenue. At 8:15PM, Engine 28 received the alarm from the main fire alarm office and, when they arrived at the scene, the firefighters were confronted with a very large pile of burning rubbish. Kaczka drove the engine into the fire area and positioned the engine in the location that was considered to be the best vantage point for attacking the fire.
Captain Martin Holland initially ordered the firefighters to attack the flames with the engine’s deck gun, but it was clear after a short period of time that utilizing the deck gun with a water supply of only 500 gallons in the booster tank would not be sufficient to extinguish the fire. Holland then ordered the firefighters to lead out 300 feet of four inch hose line to a hydrant situated on the east side of Laflin Avenue. When the hydrant valve was opened, allowing some water to charge the hose line, the water main under the street broke, reducing the amount of water necessary to sustain a fire attack from this hydrant.
At this point in time, Holland radioed the main fire alarm office and requested a full still alarm. Also at this time, Holland had the firefighters disconnect the four inch line from the intake port and move it to the side approximately thirty feet, and also ordered the engine back approximately fifty feet, as the fire had begun to work its way under the engine. The engine was repositioned to another vantage point, further away from the original position. The four inch line was then dragged approximately fifty feet to the new position, where it was reconnected.
While this was going on, Truck 8 and Engine 23 arrived. Engine 23 stopped at the faulty hydrant and the firefighters hooked up their four inch line to Engine 28’s four inch line that was originally connected to the faulty hydrant. Engine 23 then proceeded to a hydrant that was 300 feet south of the faulty hydrant, where the firefighters were able to send a sufficient water supply to extinguish the fire. During this time, Holland ordered his firefighters to take two 1-¾ inch horseshoe bedded hose lines off of the engine bed to further add to the attack of the fire.
Kaczka assisted with a number of these tasks, helping to pull the dry four inch hose line that was initially connected to the faulty hydrant. He also helped move the waterlogged line when the engine was backed up and repositioned, and then dragged the waterlogged line to the engine’s new position. He also helped pull the 1-¾ inch horseshoe line off of the engine bed. Kaczka was ordered to charge the line, but before he could do so he collapsed to the ground.
Kaczka’s fellow firefighters called for an ambulance and performed CPR until the paramedics arrived. Kaczka was transported to the University of Illinois Hospital where he was pronounced dead from a heart attack.
Summary provided by Chicago Fire Department.