Chippewa Falls Fire and Emergency Services
At 3:04am, on Sunday, December 4, 2005, Chippewa Falls 911 received a call reporting a structure fire at 220 Badger Street. The caller, Matt Berg, 23-years-old, said he was trapped in his second story bedroom and was unable to escape the house due to heavy fire outside his door.
Chippewa Falls Fire and Emergency Services immediately responded to the scene. While they were on their way, the 911 dispatcher stayed with Berg on the phone trying to get him to break a window to get some fresh air and also telling him that firefighters were on their way. Berg repeatedly stated that he was trapped and unable to break any windows. Becoming more frantic, he also said that his bedroom was filling up with smoke and the fire was growing. About the time that fire and police units arrived, Matt fell unconscious to the floor.
Firefighters arrived and found heavy smoke pouring out of the two-story Badger Street home. Four people had been sleeping in the home, three had made it safely outside while their son Matt was still trapped in his room.
Firefighter/EMTs Jason Thom and Joe Przybylski climbed a ladder and broke their way in through a small 20’ by 36’ window. Firefighter Thom found Berg on the floor of the dark and smoke filled bedroom. The temperature in the room was rising as the growing fire was now beginning to burn in the bedroom itself.
While this was going on, Battalion Chief Jon Taylor climbed the same ladder to assist the two firefighters inside. Firefighters Thom and Przybylski struggled to lift the unconscious, 200+ pound Berg off the floor and move him through the crowded bedroom to the window for rescue. Reaching the window they needed to lift Berg up and over a counter to the awaiting Battalion Chief Taylor. As the two firefighters struggled with Berg, Taylor leaned into the window and grabbed Berg by the shoulder. As Berg’s head and shoulders reached the open window, a blast of freezing fresh air hit him and he became somewhat conscious. At this point, Berg was not able to comprehend what was happening and he became very combative and fought off the rescue attempt. From his precarious position at the top of the ladder, Battalion Chief Taylor wrestled with Berg in an attempt to get him out through the window. Eventually, Battalion Chief Taylor overcame Berg’s resistance and pulled him through the window. Berg once again went unconscious. At this time the low air alarms on Thom and Przybylski’s SCBAs were going off signaling they only had a few short minutes of air left.
The bedroom was now extremely hot and dangerously close to flashover. Knowing that his firefighters had to evacuate the building immediately, Battalion Chief Taylor was forced to quickly carry Berg down the ladder, while holding him upside down. Once of the ground, EMTs were waiting to transport Berg to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where he was treated for smoke inhalation. Firefighters Thom and Przybylski, with conditions in the room deteriorating quickly, were finally able to climb down the ladder themselves. As Thom was making his way down the ladder, the room did flash over.
The rescue of Matt Berg is credited to the heroic actions of Firefighters Jason Thom, Joe Przybylski, and Battalion Chief Jon Taylor, who found themselves in a very difficult and dangerous position. By using the teamwork that firefighters are taught to trust in, they were able to overcome all of the obstacle that they were faced with on this cold December night.