'I was in a little bit of a tunnel vision': Lisle officer rescues boy from burning home
When Lisle police officer Bill Wise responded Tuesday night to a townhouse fire, the first thing he saw was a crowd of people.
They were yelling that someone was trapped inside the home on the 2700 block of Wayfaring Lane.
Tunnel vision kicked in, and he sprinted to the front entrance. "I was just trying to make sure everybody was out of the house," he said.
He could hear a boy yelling "Help me! Help me! I'm in here! I can't get out!"
Then Wise -- who described himself Wednesday as "just a patrol officer" -- turned into a superhero.
He kicked in the door. But a wall of fire and smoke met him. He tried again but found it impossible to enter.
Wise told the boy, trapped in the basement, to find a window.
There was just one problem. The small access window was partially blocked by brush and an air-conditioning compressor. It was near a corner of a deck, which was on fire.
And there was a locked cover on the window well.
Wise -- a tall, stocky guy -- ripped the A/C unit from its mooring and pushed it aside, then attacked the window-well cover, prying it loose at a corner.
The boy's arm was sticking out the window. Wise grabbed it, pulled the teen out, and carried him to a waiting ambulance.
What was he thinking through all this?
"I was in a little bit of a tunnel vision," said Wise, adding he was just thinking of how he could get the boy out.
He and the teen were treated in an ambulance, for smoke inhalation and exhaustion. Wise was then taken to Edward Hospital for further evaluation and treatment, and he was released around 3 a.m.
The boy had been home alone.
In a recording of the 911 call he made, the boy can be heard speaking to Wise during the rescue. The boy says to the officer, "Thank you. I owe my life."
"He was extremely composed for a 14-year-old boy in that situation," Wise said.
It isn't the first time Wise has been one of the first emergency workers to arrive at a fire. It's not unusual, he said, for late-shift police to get to an emergency call before the firefighters or paramedics.
"It is part of our job," said Wise, who has been a police officer for 21 years, all with Lisle.
Police Chief Ron Wilke said Wise was "in the right place at the right time to complete this heroic act."
"Had he not been there, this incident would have ended in a tragedy," Wilke said. "He is the true definition of a hero! Another excellent example of why police are so vital in our society."
Lisle-Woodridge Fire Protection District Chief Keith Krestan said the cause of the fire has not been determined yet. He said the unit has been declared uninhabitable.
The unit is one of four in the building, which was constructed in 1981, according to tax assessment records. Krestan said the other three units sustained "moderate" smoke and water damage.
"The residents of Lisle are so proud of our first responders who don't hesitate in their service to their community," Lisle Trustee Sara Sadat said.
Fire officials said the blaze was under control within about 15 minutes of firefighters' arrival. Krestan said the "main body" of the fire was on the first floor of the townhouse.
Firefighters were on scene for about three hours performing salvage and overhauling duties of burned areas to make sure there were no additional hot spots that could reignite.
• Daily Herald staff writer Jake Griffin contributed to this report.