Morris Fire Chief Tracey Steffes to be honored by Red Cross

The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago is honoring Fire Chief Tracey Steffes as this year’s Firefighter Hero at the organization’s 20th Annual Heroes Breakfast.

MORRIS – Morris Fire Chief Tracey Steffes has dedicated his life to his community, serving first as a volunteer fireman for the city of Morris before eventually becoming fire chief.

Steffes attributes his desire to serve to the people he was surrounded by growing up.

“I remember my parents taking me to the pancake breakfast twice a year – April and November at the firehouse,” Steffes said.

“I remember seeing those people and thinking, ‘Wow, what a life,’” he said. “You’d get to see the firemen and fire trucks, and you could get to see the camaraderie between the guys and girls. That was the biggest thing.”

Morris Fire Protection & Ambulance District Chief Tracey Steffes addresses the media Thursday at a press conference regarding the industrial fire on the east side of Morris.

Steffes obtained his first full-time position with the city after working as a volunteer fireman for 10 months, working as a full-time police officer for about 23 years.

He continued volunteering for the fire department during his downtime until he became Morris’ first full-time fire chief 10 years ago.

His experience with the community empowered him to take on historic challenges within the community.

One historic challenge took place in June 2021, when a fire broke out in the old paper mill factory.

The warehouse, owned by Superior Battery, housed almost 200,000 pounds of lithium batteries, causing toxic fumes to erupt, posing a massive threat to the health of the community.

More than 1,000 homes and 3,000 residents were evacuated.

His performance during the battery fire attracted the attention of the Red Cross.

Smoke billows from the fire at 919 E. Benton St. in Morris. The building contains more than 100,000 pounds of lithium batteries and the east side of Morris has been evacuated.

Steffes consulted with agencies around the world to coordinate the response to the fire and to continue operations in the days and weeks to come, according to a Red Cross news release.

The American Red Cross will honor Steffes as this year’s Firefighter Hero at the organization’s 20th Annual Heroes Breakfast on Wednesday in Chicago.

“Chief Steffes’ poise, quick actions and leadership during an unprecedented disaster likely saved the lives of countless residents of Morris,” Celena Roldán said, chief executive officer of the American Red Cross of Illinois.

“He is a true example of a leader and we look forward to celebrating him at this year’s Heroes Breakfast,” she said.

Steffes said it is an honor to be recognized by the Red Cross, as the organization has always played a role in the fire district.

“The Red Cross is a great organization, so it is an honor to be recognized,” Steffes said. “In this incident that they used for the award – you can’t really put one person’s name on it. We were successful because of everyone involved. Everyone did what they were supposed to be doing.”

Maribeth M. Wilson

Maribeth M. Wilson has been a reporter with Shaw Media for two years, one of those as news editor at the Morris Herald-News. She became a part of the NewsTribune staff in 2023.