Introducing the 2020 Red Cross Class of Heroes: Firefighter Heroes

Red Cross 2020 Heroes Firefighters

On June 30, 2019, Lt. David Chmelar and Firefighter Paramedic Chad Tinsley, along with other members of the St. Charles Fire Department, responded to a call of a disabled boat that was getting dangerously close to going over the Fox River dam. Chmelar and Tinsley were able to position their boat next to the disabled vessel, tie it off quickly and help the three passengers into the rescue boat, leaving the disabled boat behind. About 40 seconds later, the boat tumbled over the dam, crashed and capsized. Thanks to the firefighter’s bravery, the family on the boat was rescued and although distressed, had no physical injuries. This heroism led the Red Cross of Illinois to award Lt. Chmelar and FF/PMD Tinsley the 2020 Disaster Services Hero Award, sponsored by Grainger.

This incident has started dialogues between the Fire Department and the St. Charles Park District to identify ways to encourage increased boating safety in the community. Together, they are also exploring new ways to notify boaters of potentially dangerous conditions on the water. FF/PMD Tinsley told the Chicago Red Cross that they are used to rescuing stranded boaters, but nothing to the extent of what they witnessed that day with a boat so dangerously close to the dam, “our job was just to get to them in time and get them off the boat and it all just worked out, thankfully,” he said.

Since COVID-19, the St. Charles Fire Department has been responding to incidents daily, which are potentially COVID-19 related. “Our team still comes to work and responds to incidents where we all know there is a high potential for exposure because [we] want to help. This isn’t just St. Charles. This is all across the country,” Lt. Chmelar told the Chicago Red Cross.

Lt. Chmelar and FF/PMD Tinsley were to receive their award at the Red Cross of Illinois’ annual Heroes Breakfast, which was cancelled because of coronavirus. We hope you are inspired by their story, and consider donating to the Red Cross at Right now, the impact of your gift will be doubled by a generous match.

Better is honored to be a sponsor of the Heroes Breakfast and to collaborate with the Red Cross to share the inspiring stories of all the 2020 Heroes too.

You’re Invited: Virtual Heroes Event

We hope you can also join us for a special virtual event to celebrate our 2020 Class of Heroes, and hear directly from Celena Roldán, CEO of the American Red Cross of Illinois. We promise this will be an uplifting start to your day!

This virtual event is on Thursday, May 7th from 9:00 – 9:30 a.m. via Zoom. Please make sure to register online to attend.

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