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Father and son receive Life Saving Award for rescuing two residents from burning house

“Selfless acts such as these need to be noticed and honored.”

LANSING, Ill. (November 22, 2023) – When Rigoberto Gutierrez Sr. and his son Rigoberto Gutierrez Jr. arrived at a family member’s house in Lansing on September 4, they were expecting to go to brunch, not rescue someone from a blaze.

“My dad just happened to take my sister’s dog out at that time,” said Gutierrez Jr. “And we just saw a lot of smoke, and that’s when saw the side of the [neighbor’s] house was on fire.”

The Gutierrezes ran to the house and began knocking on the door insistently. Eventually, someone came to the door, and they weren’t aware their house was starting to burn.

“I think for my dad and my brother, it wasn’t like a ‘Oh should I help?’ it was like a ‘We have to help,'” said Elizabeth Herrera.

“No pensamos,” said Gutierrez Sr. in Spanish, which translates to, “We didn’t think.”

The first woman in the house was mobile, and quickly exited the house. Gutierrez Sr. climbed a flight of stairs to retrieve the second woman.

“Your house in on fire!” he told her, and the woman, who is not able to walk well, latched onto Gutierrez Sr., who carried her down the stairs and out of the house. Gutierrez Jr. went back in for the woman’s wheelchair.

“Had these two men not passed by the home on this day, I can’t say really what the outcome would have been for the people in this house. The house was a total loss,” said Lansing Fire Chief Chad Kooyenga.

Neither woman required medical treatment after the incident.

life saving
Rigoberto Gutierrez Sr. and Rigoberto Gutierrez Jr. are pictured with the LFD shift that was on duty on September 4, when the house was on fire. The crew arrived shortly after the Gutierrezes had rescued the home’s occupants. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Civilian Life Saving Award

“Selfless acts such as these need to be noticed and honored,” Kooyenga said.

life saving
Fire Chief Chad Kooyenga presents Rigoberto Gutierrez Jr. and Rigoberto Gutierrez Sr. with Life Saving Awards, the first the department has ever given to civilians. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

The Gutierrezes were each presented with a plaque and award in recognition of their service, the first Life Saving Awards have been presented to civilians.

The pair of rescuers received a standing ovation at Tuesday night’s Village Board meeting.


Josh Bootsma
Josh Bootsma
Josh is Managing Editor at The Lansing Journal and believes in the power and purpose of community news. He covers any local topics—from village government to theatre, from business openings to migratory birds.