PEKIN — Two Pekin firefighters were honored by state officials Tuesday for rescuing a man from his mother’s burning house last year.
The victim whose life they likely saved allegedly started that fire and at least one more at his brother’s home in ensuing months. He’s now serving a 12-year prison term.
Fire Department Capt. Trent Reeise, 31, and Firefighter Josh Graham, 28, received the Firefighters Excellence Award presented by the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office for “service in the line of duty,” said Fire Chief Kurt Nelson.
They were honored at the Illinois Fallen Firefighters Memorial and Firefighting Medal of Honor Awards ceremony in Springfield.
Reeise, an eight-year Pekin department veteran, and Graham, with the department for four years, rescued Michael Taylor from a breezeway between his mother’s garage and house at 250 Cooper St. the night of March 22, 2016.
Taylor and his mother had escaped uninjured after the fire broke out in the garage, but Taylor fell unconscious when he returned to the smoke-filled breezeway to obtain personal belongings. He was hospitalized for smoke inhalation and burns.
Police later arrested him for aggravated arson after concluding the fire was intentionally set, but he was not formally charged. He was suspected but not charged with setting a small fire in the basement of another relative’s home several months later.
Taylor was imprisoned last January after he pleaded guilty to aggravated arson for setting fire to the outer wall of a house containing his brother’s apartment at 800 Caroline St.
He was arrested the night of Nov. 24 after he stuffed paper under the wall of the two-story home and ignited it, causing about $5,000 in damage before firefighters doused the flames. Walker told police he acted after his brother refused his request to stay there overnight.
Follow Michael Smothers at Twitter.com/msmotherspekin