PROCESSING GRIEF: HOW CONNECTICUT FIREFIGHTERS PROCESS EMOTIONAL TOLL OF DEADLY FIRE CALLS

As the Somers community continues to mourn and process this deadly fire, we’re taking a closer look at the emotional toll firefighters deal with, especially when the deaths of children are involved.

“I think it’s going to hit a lot of us in another 24 hours or so when we kind of settled down and the adrenaline stops. And now we have to kind of go back to kind of reality,” Somers Fire Chief James Roache said.

A reality firefighters in Somers will be facing after responding to a deadly fire that took the lives of four children. A loss that can take a toll, especially if they’re parents.

“It hits home, and when it hits home, then we have to deal with how it affects us,” Hartford Fire Chaplain Jeff Powell said.

He said it can take time for firefighters to process a traumatic experience.

“Today was one thing, but tomorrow is coming and when tomorrow comes, that’s when everything sets in,” Powell said.

North Haven Fire Chaplain James Detweiler said in his role, providing spiritual counseling and being a relatable voice is crucial.

“A lot of times, firefighters don’t always open up to others, but they’ll open up more to people within their own department,” he said.

Detweiler said just being present with firefighters who are struggling can send a powerful message.

“I try to say ‘Hey, let’s go out for a cup of coffee’ or just meet one-on-one sometimes,” he said.

For some smaller departments without a chaplain, it’s all about giving each other a shoulder to lean on.

“It’s staying close with everybody. Keeping the communication going. Letting them know we’re here and we can get professional services, if necessary,” Chief James Shanley of the Pleasant Valley Fire Department in Barkhamsted said.

He said during tough calls, the minute the gear is put away, his mind turns to his firefighter’s wellbeing.

“What about the staff? How are they feeling? Who saw what? Who’s feeling it? And we immediately start to do our little thing of checking up on people,” Shanley said.

https://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/local/processing-grief-how-ct-firefighters-process-emotional-toll-of-deadly-fire-calls/3184395/