CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) – A Champaign firefighter was honored Monday by the department and the Champaign Exchange Club.

“What I try to do is just to move one little portion of the department forward. If we all do that, I think the Champaign Fire Department gets better and better every day with all the people we have in this place,” Elliot Kraft said.

It’s not all about fires. When somebody gets stuck in a confined space or hundreds of feet in the air, they rely on firefighters to rescue them. That’s why Kraft was named the 2021 Firefighter of the Year; he trains other firefighters to handle dangerous situations that are outside normal calls. He has also helped update “technical rescue” equipment to improve their responses.

“Especially in the city of Champaign, we have a lot of building and construction going on with heavy equipment and crane operators. U of I’s steam tunnels – we do clean outs. So, in the off chance that someone gets hurt or stuck, or has an EMS incident in there, it might be very hard to access them versus walking in the front door of an apartment building,” Kraft said.

He calls them low-frequency, high-risk calls. Next month, they’re focusing on elevator rescues.

“We can’t train for every single specific call that we go on, so having a broad range of understanding of how I can utilize what we learned, and put it into play in this call, is what our main goal is,” Kraft said.

He said he doesn’t feel like he did anything special to deserve the award, and he’s just doing his job like everyone else. But Chief Ludwig said he wishes he had a hundred more firefighters like Kraft.