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‘Thank you for saving my life,' fire victim says to cops

Thomas Lewickyj hugs his 12yr. mix breed dog Lilly after being carried from his 6th floor apartment at 2303 No. Clybourn after a Still and Box alarm fire routed the apartment buildings tennants. | Dom Najolia~Sun-Times

“Thank you for saving my life.”

That’s what Thomas Lewickyj, 34, wants to say to the half-dozen police officers who carried him and his wheelchair down six flights of stairs to safety after a fire broke out in his Lake View apartment building Friday night. They even went back and rescued his dog.

One of the officers, Julio Mercado, was hospitalized for smoke inhalation, along with four others – including a 3-year-old girl in critical condition – after the fire began at 8:40 p.m. in a kitchen in the second floor of the building at 2303 N. Clybourn, fire department officials said.

Firefighters Luis Aguayo and Nelson Camacho went to the second floor where the fire started.

“We noticed the fire up in the ceiling in the kitchen,” Aguayo said. “We got the fire out. Right after that, I heard a faint noise.” That’s when they saw the girl and her mother by a window in the living room.

“I asked [the mom], ‘Are you OK?’ I grabbed the child and said, ‘Follow me.’ And then I ran out of there with the child. … I had her close to my coat so she wouldn’t breathe a lot of the smoke in the apartment.”

She was taken to Children’s Memorial Hospital in critical condition.

Lewickyj, 34, said he smelled smoke while he was in his sixth-floor apartment, then he heard fire alarms.

He began knocking frantically on the inside of his door, and a few minutes later, Mercado knocked back, and screamed, “ ‘We got to get you out! We got to get you out!’ ” Lewickyj said later, as he waited outside in the cold.

Mercado picked him up along with his wheelchair and carried him to a stairwell, where other officers brought him to safety.

Contributing: Tina Sfondeles, Michael Lansu