Firefighter Willard C. Christoffer

Western Springs Fire Department suffered its only-ever loss of a firefighter when Willard Christoffer fell 65 feet in a training exercise, leaving behind his wife Lucy and their two children, Charlie and Alyssa.

Firefighter Christoffer was engaged in a regularly scheduled training night. He was involved in an activity that had firefighters ascend a fully extended 105-foot aerial ladder, lock into the tip with a ladder belt, utilize the steps at the top of the ladder, and then descend the ladder. The ladder was elevated to 65 degrees. Firefighter Christoffer climbed the ladder and paused for a moment three-quarters of the way up and firefighters on the ground asked if everything was “Okay,” and he responded that he was fine. Firefighter Christoffer continued to the tip of the ladder and deployed the steps. Firefighter Christoffer began his descent and at the 65-foot level, he appeared to fall backward. He made no attempt to catch himself or call for help. Firefighter Christoffer fell down the bed of the ladder and landed on the turntable. Medical aid was provided immediately, and Firefighter Christoffer was transported to a nearby hospital.

He was pronounced dead at the hospital. The cause of death was listed as multiple injuries that resulted from a fall from height. Coronary arteriosclerosis was also listed as a contributing factor.