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Christopher D. Wheatley
Birth: Jul. 7, 1979
Cook County
Illinois, USA
Death: Aug. 9, 2010
Cook County
Illinois, USA

Fallen firefighter 'loved the job'
Fatal fall came while carrying 75 pounds of equipment

Inside the Engine 5 Firehouse in the South Loop, Christopher Wheatley stood out for his quick wit and the smile plastered across his face anytime except after a Bears loss.

On the street, though, the 31-year-old Chicago paramedic firefighter was all business -- approaching each call with enthusiasm, working out to keep himself in shape and diligently training.

About 12:30 a.m. Monday, Wheatley died responding to a grease fire at Avec, a restaurant at 615 W. Randolph.

He fell about 35 feet while climbing to the roof carrying about 75 pounds of equipment including an ax, compressed air tank and hose, fire officials said. The fire was quickly extinguished.

"He was a great guy," said Scott Buckley, a 16-year veteran Chicago firefighter who also fought the Avec fire.

Buckley recalled seeing Wheatley moments before the fire: "We all went together."

After Wheatley's fall, everyone rallied around him, Buckley said.

"All the guys jumped in and tried to resuscitate him," he said. "As soon as he hit the ground everyone was helping. It was bad, to be totally honest with you."

An emotional Fire Commissioner Robert Hoff hailed Wheatley as "one of our finest" at a news conference outside Stroger Hospital on Monday morning.

"I really ask that everybody keeps him and his family in his prayers," Hoff said.

In a statement from Wheatley's family, they said: "Chris lived his life to the fullest; he put everything he had into both work and play. . . . He loved people he had known all his life and was just as caring for those he had just met."

His mother, Mary Wheatley, says her son's death "is a hole that can never be filled," but she is "comforted by his memory."

His fiancee, Jessica Roberts, said in a statement that she called Wheatley her " 'Mr. Chicago' who was in love with the traditions and people of the Chicago Fire Department." She also said he was the "most generous and loyal man" she had ever known.

Wheatley is the first Chicago firefighter to die since the 2007 death of William Grant. Grant died when a school bus collided with the fire truck he was in.

Wheatley joined the Chicago Fire Department in 2000 as a paramedic, and crossed over to a paramedic firefighter job in 2008. His career choice didn't surprise Denise Dalton, a guidance counselor at Lemont High School who taught Wheatley social studies there. Wheatley, who was on the school's football team, graduated in 1997.

"He always had a positive attitude," Dalton said. "He was always willing to do what was asked of him and more."

Wheatley and some friends formed a group called Athletes Committed to Excellence, talking to junior high students about not drinking and using drugs, Dalton said.

"They were a great group of kids and he was one of the leaders," she said. Seeing his firefighter picture in the news Monday, she said he looked "exactly the same."

"He had that same bright smile," she said.

Brian Reese, who rode on Truck 2 with Wheatley, said he would remember Wheatley's sense of humor.

"Made me laugh all day long, but for all the humor, he took his job very seriously," Reese said.

Hoff said Wheatley was climbing a ladder attached to the building to Avec's roof, where the grease shield extended through.

"When he was making his way up, he apparently slipped and fell to the ground, causing critical injuries," Hoff said. "And when he was brought here [to Stroger], they worked to save his life, but it was too late."

He was carrying up to 75 pounds of equipment when he fell.

"You always need a young strong guy to carry the heavy stuff and he was there to do that," Reese said.

Hoff said Wheatley was popular with his fellow firefighters and paramedics.

"He was a very aggressive firefighter -- he was into the job," Hoff said. "He was into training. He was an all-around firefighter. He loved the job."

After Hoff announced his death, Wheatley's body was taken to the nearby medical examiner's office Monday morning in a procession of at least 25 police and fire vehicles -- and 14 people making the slow walk. A similar procession accompanied his body from the medical examiner's office to the Blake-Lamb Funeral Home in Oak Lawn Monday afternoon.

"There was nothing not to like about him," said paramedic Jeff Swagler, his eyes welling with tears.

Wheatley's passion for the Bears was on display on his Facebook page, which featured a picture of Jay Cutler as his profile picture, and Wheatley's Near West Side condo where a Bears flag hung in a window in his second-floor unit.

From the balcony, Wheatley could see another firehouse -- Engine 26, across Madison Street from his condo.

Wheatley would grill on the balcony, and wave to the firefighters across the street. He would walk across the street to get ice from the firehouse icemaker, and was occasionally detailed to work out of that firehouse.

"That's like a brother," said Dan Zeller, who works at Engine 26. "That's a part of us. But we gotta go on. We'll try to give even better care in a salute to him."

Zeller said Wheatley was looking forward to getting married.

"Now he won't get a chance," he said. "He was gonna start a new chapter in his life. This couldn't have happened at a worse time."

At Wheatley's firehouse at 324 S. Des Plaines, the American and City of Chicago flags were at lowered to half staff. Purple bunting was draped across the buildings, as 35 firefighters watched.

"This job is dangerous," Hoff said. "You never know what is going to happen when you pull out the door."

Fire Commissioner Robert S. Hoff, requests that all off-duty members of the Chicago Fire Department and Suburban Firefighters join together as a family, to honor this fine young man by attending the wake, and participating in the funeral of our fallen Brother.

**Please wear "Class A" Uniform & White Gloves**

Thursday, August 12, 2010
Blake-Lamb Funeral Home
4727 W. 103rd Street
Oak Lawn, IL 60453
1500 - 2100 HRS
CFD Assembly at 1830 HRS
Walk-thru at 1900 HRS

Funeral Service:
Friday, August 13, 2010
Blake-Lamb Funeral Home
4727 W. 103rd Street
Oak Lawn, IL 60453
CFD Assembly at 0800 HRS
Prayer Service at 0915 HRS
Walk-thru immediately following Prayer Service

Funeral Mass:
Friday, August 13, 2010
St. John Fisher Church
10234 S. Washtenaw
Chicago, IL 60655
1030 HRS

Holy Sepulchre Cemetery
6001 W. 111th Street
Worth, IL 60482 
Holy Sepulchre Cemetery
Cook County
Illinois, USA
Maintained by: Scott McManimen
Originally Created by: William Kazupski
Record added: Aug 10, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 56910508
Christopher D. Wheatley
Added by: William Kazupski
Christopher D. Wheatley
Added by: William Kazupski
Christopher D. Wheatley
Added by: Breadlady45 from Chicago
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