Firefighter remembered as loving family, friends -- and the job

2013-03-06T20:30:00Z 2013-05-30T12:53:51Z Firefighter remembered as loving family, friends -- and the jobBy Kevin Barlow |

HUDSON — Chris Brown marked an anniversary on Tuesday — 12 years with the Bloomington Fire Department.

But he didn’t hang up his fire gear when he went home to Hudson.  As a volunteer with that town’s fire department, Brown was on call Tuesday night and was one of the rescue personnel responding to a multiple vehicle accident on Interstate 39.

He was struck and killed at the scene, leading colleagues and others to not only mourn his loss, but also celebrate him as a man who enjoyed life, his family, friends and community — and the job.

Brown, 39, died at 11:38 p.m. Tuesday at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center as a result of blunt force trauma caused by the accident, said McLean County Coroner Beth Kimmerling.  He leaves behind a wife and two sons.

The accident was called into the Hudson Fire Department about 9:45 p.m., following a snowy day that may have contributed to the accident involving two semitrailer trucks one mile south of Hudson. About an hour later, a southbound semi carrying a load of automobiles lost control and struck three first-responder vehicles belonging to the Hudson department and Illinois State Police.

Brown, a Hudson volunteer for the past three years, and five other Hudson firefighters were transported to BroMenn. The four others were treated and released.

State police said the accident remains under investigation.

“Today we lost a member of our Hudson family,” said Hudson Fire Chief Dan Hite. “We share in the sorrow felt by his loved ones, and we must not forget the valuable contributions he made to this community and the impact he has left on the Hudson Fire Department.”

Hite said the department is “a close-knit family, and the loss of one of our own affects us all. A tragedy of this type is felt by each and every member, but together, we can make it through. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

Flags were at half-staff at area police and fire departments, and police officers are wearing mourning bands on their badges.

“We are deeply saddened by the painful loss of one of our own, and we will do our best to support his immediate family as well as his firefighter families in both Bloomington and Hudson,” said Bloomington Fire Chief Mike Kimmerling.

Bloomington Capt. Eric West said he worked with Brown for much of the time Brown was with the Bloomington department.

“In fact, Tuesday was his anniversary date,” West said. “He was a great guy and I treated him like a son. He was a great worker, a great family man and he also knew how to have fun. He could get a little ornery with me, but he didn’t mind when I got ornery with him, either.”

Family was important to Brown, noted West.

“He was a guy with really two families,” he said. “He had his firefighting family and he had his wife and two sons. He loved both of those families and we were all proud of him.”

“He was the type of guy that when that pager went off, he would respond,” said Shane Hill, public information officer for the Hudson Fire Department. “When somebody needed help, no matter if it was the middle of the night or when other people were leading their own lives, he would put his on hold and go help. Because he was a full time firefighter in Bloomington, he acted as a mentor to some of our people. He was the best type of guy.”

“He is irreplaceable,” said Chief Kimmerling. “There are certain people you enjoy being around and he was one of them. He was engaging and caring and this is just a huge, huge loss for us and he will never be able to be replaced.”

Both West and Hill said their respective departments were dealing with the tragedy as best they could.

“Words can’t really describe how people cope with something like this because everyone handles it in different ways,” Hill said. “We are a close-knit family and we are here for each other. Our first focus is to help his family and then we are concerned about the firefighters also at the scene. But throughout the day, we have received support and offers of help from everyone and that is a huge help. All of the area departments have offered assistance and help and we are appreciative of that.”

Added West,” We have our moments, both good and bad. We still have to do our job, but it is tough to go out there and think that he should be there with us. But we have been talking about the fun times and then there are moments where we just sit and reflect quietly. We are really going to miss him, though.”

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(32) Comments

  1. redbirdmedic
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    redbirdmedic - March 09, 2013 3:47 pm
    I wish you would hold off the blame game until the investigation is complete. But if you must there is a more appropriate story posted on pantagraph than this one. It talks about the truck driver and ongoing investigation
  2. jpspratt
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    jpspratt - March 09, 2013 9:53 am
    Our sincerest condolences to Chris' family and friends. Please accept our most heartfelt sympathies for your loss. Our thoughts are with you and your family during this difficult time. May memories of happier times sustain you during your time of sadness. As you grieve know that we are remembering you and honoring the memory of Chris.
    From the members of the Wauconda Fire District
  3. penwa
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    penwa - March 08, 2013 10:51 am
    Your comments are duly noted. I know many times in good weather and bad drivers are speeding, weaving in and out of traffic and in general causing others to worry about their safety. I would hope that the driver of the semi was doing his best to avoid this kind of accident and I don't know the visibility at the time, but so many factors were present that night and the worst happened. The truck driver is going to have to live the rest of his life with this and I'm sure he is going over and over in his mind what he could have done to prevent the accident from happening. Even in the best of weather, sometimes you're up on the scene of something unexpected with little time to react. I live on a busy corner and see drivers speed through a yellow light to save what - 30 seconds? I also see posts that have readers screaming that the police should be looking for 'real' criminals when there are speed traps out there; then when something like this happens, everyone wants the officers to 'do their job' and get the speeders... I am saddened by this tragic loss of Chris Brown and the others who were injured. I pray their family members and friends will give them the comfort and support they so greatly need at this time.
  4. cub fan - bud man
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    cub fan - bud man - March 07, 2013 10:30 am
    Is there anything more noble than dying a hero and doing what you loved? RIP, Chris.
  5. spoda54
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    spoda54 - March 07, 2013 9:54 am
    Heaven must have needed another great firefighter to watch over us. They got one in Chris Brown!!
  6. TooManyNarcissists
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    TooManyNarcissists - March 06, 2013 11:15 pm
    I didn't see the accident, but I AM A WITNESS to watching semi-drivers, as well as others, speeding down the highway in the worst sorts of weather. Of course semi drivers "can't stop on a dime in perfect conditions", which makes it all the more amazing to me to see them blaze down the road at speeds far exceeding the speed limit in absolutely nasty weather conditions. You might think this is a "bad time" to point this out, but I think this is precisely the time to point this out. While I cannot say if this particular truck driver was speeding, I have noted the potential for this type of accident to occur all too many times. My heart goes out to this fireman and his family and I ask that drivers everywhere please use some common sense when driving, especially in bad weather.
  7. thoughts a million
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    thoughts a million - March 06, 2013 9:47 pm
    They sit in the cross-overs to be visible, which slows down traffic.
  8. hello2012
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    hello2012 - March 06, 2013 9:40 pm
    this is not the best time or place to be pointing fingers at anyone. this is the time to support his family and fellow fire fighters. my theory is everyone is hurt and upset about this tragedy but if you want to blame the police that were also affected and a semi driver this is not the place to do it. write a letter or something but the police officers were also affected by this. please just try to keep his family in your prayers. hate is not worth it. live every day to your fullest because you never know when something can go terribly wrong. just please don't blame anyone right now. this is the time for the families of Chris. this is a horrible accident and people need to understand that pointing fingers is not going to change this at all. my boyfriend is a fire fighter and it has hit home for our department too. everytime that pager goes off these men and women are putting their lives at risk to save others. it is something that shows so much and how much respect they have for others. they put their lives on hold to help others. and all of them love their job and what they do and why they do it. rest in peace Chris and may God carry your wife and two sons and help your fellow Brothers with your loss.
  9. OMG
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    OMG - March 06, 2013 8:33 pm
    Absolutely I am serious. It's time that these speeders be ticketed and slammed with a fine to learn them a lesson. More often than not speed is the cause of accidents that could have been prevented!
  10. Joe Vinnie
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    Joe Vinnie - March 06, 2013 7:32 pm
    Nothing but prayers for my brother....this is what people expect from us when we answer a call....Rest In Peace Brother.......Joe Vinnie (ret)
  11. tcubbies23
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    tcubbies23 - March 06, 2013 7:05 pm
    Seriously? A man loved by everyone who knew him lost his life in an ACCIDENT! Unless YOU were a witness, you have no right in posting your assumption that semi drivers drive faster in B/N! I've traveled the country and it's the same everywhere...including Rockford. The road conditions were horrible and I personally know an 18-wheeler can't stop on a dime in perfect conditions, let alone coming up suddenly on an accident. God Bless Chris Brown's family, the truck driver, along with the injured, and everyone affected associated.
  12. OMG
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    OMG - March 06, 2013 6:26 pm
    A loss that shouldn't have happened. When are the police ever going to start ticketing speeders, especially semi drivers. Many times I have driven from B/N going to Rockford and these drivers fly by you going no telling how fast. By far they are the worst offenders but I also see cars and trucks exceeding the speed limit. Instead of the IL State Police sitting in the cross overs wasting gasoline maybe they should start doing their job!
  13. WhatIf
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    WhatIf - March 06, 2013 3:50 pm
    This is absolutely heartbreaking. So sad, so tragic.
  14. thoughts a million
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    thoughts a million - March 06, 2013 3:00 pm
    So sad for the families involved as well as the departments.
  15. Lt-6
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    Lt-6 - March 06, 2013 2:31 pm
    Being in the Fire Service for over 30 years and having a son on the Bloomington FD. My heart goes out for all the members of the Hudson FPD and the Bloomington FD during this tragic time. May god watch over you and your families, And bring you back safely to your family at the end of each tour. God Bless you Brothers.
  16. DAfan
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    DAfan - March 06, 2013 2:09 pm
    He was a Bloomington Firefighter and also volunteered through Hudson. Every day of his life was devoted to saving others and spending time with his family and loved ones. A huge loss. He will be deeply missed.
  17. JustAKid
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    JustAKid - March 06, 2013 1:41 pm
    As the child of a firefighter, I know that this is every fire family's worst fear and nightmare. My dad is a Bloomington Firefighter and we all are deeply saddened by this news. Not only did his wife lose a husband and his children lose their father, this community lost a brave HERO that every day sacrificed himself and all those he loves for the sake of others. May we never forget his bravery and dedication to this community and the people he served as well as all the others who continue to everyday. To his family, may you know that you have a BFD family that is ready and willing to support you and love you in any way possible. May angels lead you in <3
  18. msbus98
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    msbus98 - March 06, 2013 1:40 pm
    Peace and comfort for his family. An angel above watching over his loved ones now. My heart is with you and always in my prayers.Please slow down when you see ANY lights. They are there to help.
  19. not-so-political
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    not-so-political - March 06, 2013 12:29 pm
    RIP Brother - may the arms of God protect you in your new home. May the wings of the angels cover and protect your family and friends. You will be missed by your family and friends but never forgot.
  20. Lastwords
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    Lastwords - March 06, 2013 11:01 am
    He was a great indivitual and a wonderful father. Sympathies go out to his family and fellow flireman from the Hudson Boy Scout Troop 957 family. You are all in our prayers.
  21. redbirdmedic
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    redbirdmedic - March 06, 2013 10:27 am
    Rest in peace brother.
  22. DAfan
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    DAfan - March 06, 2013 10:26 am
    well put.
  23. hello2012
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    hello2012 - March 06, 2013 9:45 am
    As a volunteer fire fighter's girlfriend, I am so sorry for your lost. May he rest in peace and may God take care of his family. To all of the fellow fire departments around the world, I am very sorry for your loss. I have forgotten what kind of job this is for these men and women. I am so sorry for your loss. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and the fire department for their loss. When I hear that page go off on the pager, I never sleep when he is gone because I am always scared and this has really hit home for all of us because you never realize what these men and women do for us. When you see emergency personel out there helping fellow people, please SLOW DOWN!!! They are putting their lives on the line to help save others. Rest in Peace and may God hold you and your family is this time of need!!!!!
  24. 66stang
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    66stang - March 06, 2013 9:33 am
    We know he is an angel watching over us now. Our sympathies to his family and all his brothers and sisters in the fire service.
  25. FFMOM
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    FFMOM - March 06, 2013 9:11 am
    Please....... When you see the lights of the Fire Department or Police Departments responding to accidents SLOW down and stay safe yourself and keep them safe too. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Family, Friends, and Brothers of the International Brotherhood of FireFighters. When the alarms ring you never know if your Firefighters will return safely.
  26. ggbear
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    ggbear - March 06, 2013 8:56 am
    Please watch over us. God Bless You !
  27. Davis
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    Davis - March 06, 2013 8:44 am
    My prayers and sympathy go out to the family, friends, and fellow firefighters of this fallen firefighter. As the wife of a volunteer firefighter, my heart goes out to all of you. May God hold you all in his arms and provide comfort and peace.
  28. willi
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    willi - March 06, 2013 8:39 am
    Thoughts and prayers to the family & friends of this firefighter - and to all who courageously serve the public. Thank you.
  29. sherrox99
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    sherrox99 - March 06, 2013 8:23 am
  30. KAR73
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    KAR73 - March 06, 2013 8:16 am
    Fly with the angels, friend. We've got it from here .... your family is our family <3
  31. USARET
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    USARET - March 06, 2013 8:00 am
  32. smalltownguy
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    smalltownguy - March 06, 2013 7:32 am
    Godspeed Brother
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