Monday, June 4, 2012
West Valley fire departments battle rise in firefighter-suicide rate
WV depts. battle rise in occurrence
by D.S. Woodfill - May. 31, 2012 09:55 PM
The Republic | azcentral.com
About 900 firefighters from departments across the West Valley are going through a suicide-prevention program intended to reduce the number of firefighters taking their own lives.
The West Side Training Consortium, a group of fire officials from 16 departments, started the classes in reaction to a perceived spike in firefighter suicides in the Valley. Although there are no exact figures available, fire officials said numerous firefighters have taken their own lives, particularly after the economy went bust.
The classes, which run through June, are taught by instructors from Luke Air Force Base.
Suicides on the rise?
"I've been in the fire service for a little over 12 years," Glendale Firefighter Michael Young said. "Up until two or three years ago, there wasn't one (suicide) that I could tell you about."
That's no longer the case, Young said. In the past three years, suicide among firefighters is a frequent occurrence now, he said.
"I consider it an epidemic," he said.
The numbers vary, depending on who's doing the talking. Young said he has heard of six deaths by suicide in recent years.
Michael Moore, a battalion chief in charge of training for Peoria, said he has heard of five in the past year.
Steve Kinkade, chairman of the training consortium, told The Republic it's difficult to provide an estimate, but he told a classroom of firefighters at the Glendale Regional Public Safety Training Center on May 23 that there were four in Phoenix in one recent seven-month period and one in Surprise in 2011.