Westmont fire battalion chief ‘a wealth of knowledge’ and mentor

Westmont Fire Department Battalion Chief Eric Blaskovich recently earned the Chief Fire Officer (CFO) designation.

While working full time, Eric Blaskovich decided to try an emergency medical technician class at the College of DuPage to see what it was like.

After completing the class, he entered a candidate program at the Westmont Fire Department and for the past 27 years has worked there, moving up the ranks to battalion chief in 2020.

He said the “camaraderie” and the “brotherhood and sisterhood” of the fire service is real and it “is your family away from your family.”

“They become your lifelong friends and your family becomes their family,” Blaskovich said.

At the same time, he said, one of the biggest challenges of being a firefighter is being away from family. Working his share of holidays, Blaskovich also has missed birthdays and sporting events.

“My kids are older now and they understand,” he said.

In March, Blaskovich was honored for successfully completing the fire chief officer certification, the highest level of commitment to a career in fire service.

The program consists of 340 hours of instruction and comprises 13 modules over 14 months to give firefighters the tools to navigate situations such as a major disaster and other what-if scenarios, he said.

Although he doesn’t exactly remember what led him to initially enroll in the EMT class, he has a family history in firefighting.

On his mom’s side, his grandfather and great-uncle started Clarendon Hills’ first fire department in their garage.

Blaskovich grew up around construction sites thanks to his dad’s business. Now he often lends a hand overseeing remodeling projects at the Westmont fire stations.

“I really enjoy being able to fix things,” he said. “I try to do what I can.”

Blaskovich, who also is a trained paramedic, said some may think firefighters play checkers and make chili while waiting for calls. He said the complexities of the job require them to be constantly training for the “what-if” scenarios.

“We are running more calls than ever before,” especially in terms of emergency medical services, he said.

“You go to work and never know what is going to happen, and if you think I have seen everything, somebody throws a curveball,” Blaskovich said.

Saving lives and delivering babies, “good outcomes happen, too,” he said.

Having a mentor when he began his career, Blaskovich now is a mentor to others because it’s “the right thing to do,” he said.

“The knowledge that you gain over your career should be passed along,” he said.

With a shortage of paramedics and firefighters, mentoring is key to training the next generation of first responders, Westmont Deputy Chief James Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald joined the department the same year as Blaskovich and said he respects what he’s brought to the department. In addition to being a training officer and assisting with accreditation, Blaskovich has had a great influence in mentoring other firefighters.

“To progress in this profession it is sometimes not obvious,” he said.

Unlike other states, in Illinois future firefighters must be certified before applying for a position, especially for paramedics.

Blaskovich “coaches, counsels and mentors” candidates on issues such as the testing process and being part of a union.

“He is a wealth of knowledge,” Fitzgerald said.