River Forest resident Bushra ElSaffar, along with her American and Iraqi families, want to publicly thank the members of the River Forest Fire and Police departments for their heroic efforts at saving Bushra’s life after a terrible fire.

Bushra ElSaffar

On the morning of March 31, 2022, Bushra was awakened by a cracking noise. She left her bedroom to investigate and found thick smoke and a raging fire in the hallway. The heat and smoke made it nearly impossible for her to breathe, but she somehow managed to move from the hallway into an adjoining room that had a landline phone.

From there she called 911 but could only say a few words about the nature of the emergency. Then she lost consciousness.

The 911 dispatcher was not certain if the emergency was a fire or a burglary, so River Forest’s police and fire departments were both sent to the house. The first to arrive was a police officer who had to force open a door to gain access to the locked house. Since the officer was responding to a possible burglary, he was not wearing protective breathing equipment. As a result, he inhaled some smoke from the fire for which he was briefly hospitalized.

When it became clear that the emergency was a fire, personnel from fire departments in Forest Park, Oak Park, Elmwood Park, River Grove, North Riverside, Berwyn, Cicero, and Maywood came to the scene. But the members of the River Forest Fire Department were the first to enter the house.

       It is hard to imagine the difficulties and dangers the firefighters faced upon entry. The heat of the fire was so intense that the house’s windows had begun to crack and were on the verge of exploding. The smoke was so thick that the light-colored interior walls were covered with what appeared to be a coat of pitch-black paint.

Despite extremely hazardous conditions and a lack of familiarity with the house, the firefighters had to search the premises because they knew that at least one person was trapped inside. And they had to act quickly, as a delay could mean the difference between life and death.

Bushra was barely breathing when the firefighters found her, and they quickly took her out of that toxic atmosphere. Once outside, however, the trauma from her exposure to smoke and heat took its toll. She stopped breathing.

Fortunately, the highly trained personnel on the scene were able to rapidly administer a variety of advanced life-saving techniques. After a few minutes, Bushra regained the ability to breathe on her own.

Once stabilized, she was transported to Loyola Hospital’s Burn Unit, where she was diagnosed with severe smoke inhalation. Bushra spent two-and-a-half weeks in intensive care at the burn unit, breathing with the help of a machine for 10 days. After being released from intensive care, she spent another week in a rehabilitation facility and then spent many months recovering on an outpatient basis.

Now, nearly nine months after the fire, we are pleased to report that Bushra’s recovery from her harrowing experience is nearly complete. She has resumed her normal activities and hopes to return to her rebuilt home soon.

In the United States, expressions of appreciation for the work of first responders is so common that it is almost routine. But the actions of the emergency responders from River Forest and nearby suburbs were hardly routine.

Exhibiting great skill, professionalism, and bravery, a group of people who had never met Bushra put themselves at risk in order to save her life. We are fortunate to have such professionals serving the people of River Forest, and we are profoundly grateful for their efforts.

Bushra ElSaffar

Ali ElSaffar, Dena El Saffar and her husband Tim Moore, Amir ElSaffar and his partner Zahra Ali, Azhaar El-Saffar, and Nadia El-Saffar

Jamil Moore and Layla Moore

Ali al-Kurwi, Alia al-Kurwi, Hussein al-Kurwi, Yusra al-Kurwi

Thuraia and Faiq al-Bazzaz; Rafet Ramadan; Julia Snodgrass
Other friends and family

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