LOCKPORT TOWNSHIP – A gas explosion the evening of Oct. 11 in Romeoville forced an evacuation of 24 residential units and injured two utility workers.
But if it weren’t for the actions of the Lockport Township Fire Protection District, other agencies and in particular, one of Lockport Township’s firefighter/paramedics that night, someone may have died.
On Dec. 13, Liberty Mutual Insurance will present district Lt. Phil Hutto with a heroism award for his life-saving actions the night of Oct. 11.
Nicor Gas crews had been on the scene throughout the afternoon and evening at Wespark townhomes in response to reports of damage to a 2-inch natural gas line. Firefighters were standing by from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
The explosion, however, occurred about 7 p.m. in the five-unit townhome building. One resident was home at the time but escaped uninjured. More than two dozen were displaced.
According to a description provided to Liberty Mutual by Lockport Township Fire Protection District, upon arrival, Hutto was performing a 360-degree assessment of the structure fire when he noticed two Nicor workers attempting to rescue a trapped co-worker under a section of a collapsed roof.
After notifying fellow first responders, Hutto dropped his air pack and entered the collapsed area to assist Nicor employees with the victim, who was face down.
The victim was blue and gasping for air as the fire got closer. The three men were able to remove the victim from underneath the collapsed section of the roof and get him to the awaiting ambulance for patient care. He survived.
“It’s a pretty challenging situation to go in and do what Phil [Hutto] did,” Lockport Township Fire Protection District Chief David Skoryi said. “At the same time, the fire was rolling toward him quickly.”
“It was the result of a natural gas leak, so anything could’ve happened,” Hutto said of that night.
He had received awards at the department before from an outside party, but nothing of this magnitude. Skoryi said Hutto is an awesome guy to work with.
“He’s energetic, always learning and digging for more information and knowledge,” Skoryi said.
Hutto said his father was a firefighter so he grew up around the profession, one that he called “very unique.”
“I love coming to work,” said Hutto, who spends his off days with family, working as part-owner of a fire extinguisher company and teaching part-time at the Romeoville Fire Academy.
Skoryi said national numbers show that gas explosions don’t occur that often. But in the Lockport, Crest Hill and Romeoville areas, it seems as if there’s one every couple years, he said.
“It’s more than we should have,” he said.