Lyons honors fire hero
Off-duty firefighter had saved two in February blaze Lyons
By Steve Metsch
The Lyons Village Board honored a hero at its recent meeting, and also paid tribute to the fire department.
First, the heroics of Riverside resident Brian Kulaga.
A Cicero Fire Department Lieutenant, Kulaga, 54, was driving past a burning building the morning of Feb. 19 and would up saving the lives of two Lyons men.
The fire was on the second floor above Waterworks Pizza & Tavern, 7815 Ogden Ave.
The village board presented Kulaga with a large replica of the shield worn by fire fighters this year that honors the department’s 125th year.
“We honor you for your bravery,” Mayor Christopher Getty said.
Getty said Fire Chief Gordon Nord, Jr., thought Kulaga deserved the lifesaving award.
Ironically, Nord was late to the award presentation he arranged because he was helping firefighters with a garage fire on the east side of Lyons.
Cicero Fire Lieutenant Brian Kulaga accepts a life saving award from Lyons Mayor Christopher Getty at the April 20 village board meeting. Kulaga, who was off duty, saved two men from a burning building two months prior. Photo by Steve Metsch.
Kulaga, who has saved 18 lives in his 32-year career, downplayed his heroics.
“I’m blown away,” Kulaga said of the honor. “I did not expect this.”
“I did something everyone in our business does,” Kulaga said. “This I what we do. Firefighters. Police. Teachers. Nurses. We’re just out there trying to help people.
Moments later, Nord walked into the board room.
“What he did was an exceptional job,” Nord told a gathering of firefighters. “The guy did an outstanding job. The village appreciates this. And, so does the fire department.”
Louise Kulaga, a teacher and coach at a Gurrie Middle School in La Grange, was not surprised to hear about her husband’s heroics.
“Pretty awesome, but he’s done it a lot of times, so I’m pretty used to it. But not without any gear on,” she said.
When he told her, she asked if he was injured. Told he was not, she asked “for a play-by-play.”
“He said he had to crawl (through the apartment) because of the smoke,” she said. “Very proud. It’s awesome.”
Kulaga’s mother, Barbara, also attended the ceremony.
“I’m proud of him,” she said. “And I know he’s a good kid. Not always. He had five brothers, so he wasn’t the only one getting in trouble.”
Feeding six boys was a challenge, she said. There was a lock on the freezer in their Cicero home.
“I used to go to the Sara Lee outlet store. I went to get (items in the freezer) and they’d be gone. I had large mice,” she joked.
Brian Kulaga spoke highly of Nord: “I’m happy to know him. He’s a great guy.”
On the day of the fire, Nord called Kulaga “an honor to the profession.”
“Two people are still alive because of this man,” Nord said that cold day. “He crawled in with no protective gear, no regard for his life at all. He went in for the people. A true fireman right here.”
Lyons Fire Chief Gordon Nord, Jr., sits with Brian Kulaga on a bench the village gave the fire department in recognition of its 125th anniversary. Photo by Steve Metsch.
In other business, the board presented the fire department with a large bench to honor the 125th year. It will sit in front of the firehouse on Joliet Avenue.
“Thank you for all that you do,” Getty told Nord. “You make a difference every day I this community.”
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