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How firefighters cope with deadly car crashes and house fires

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Posted: Jul 24, 2019 10:14 AM
Updated: Jul 24, 2019 5:30 PM

GRANTS PASS, Ore. -- When firefighters get out their gear for a call, they don't know what to expect.

"Fire departments report to all hazards, so they are going to go to structure fires, wildfires, motor vehicle accidents, and water rescues. Any one of those incidents you could be dealing with the loss of life," said Lance Shaw, a Captain at Rural-Metro Fire in Josephine County.

Captain Shaw says some firefighters don't understand what it's like to cope with an incident until it happens. "Until you really face and deal with it, you don't know how you're really going to respond," said Captain Shaw. 

When crews do get to the scene of a deadly car crash or house fire, Captain Shaw says there is something all firefighters have to do. "When we arrive on scene you kind of have to disconnect yourself emotionally from it because we have a job to do," said Captain Shaw. 

The fire agency understands that and has options for those who need help coping. Captain Shaw says it starts right after the incident is  — the crew debriefs and discusses what happened.

"If things are bothering those individuals based on the situation they dealt with, we have other systems in place that could help them," said Captain Shaw.

Shaw says this includes critical incident stress debriefing which is used all over the Rogue Valley. There is also the Chaplains Association and its support dog in the Rogue Valley that gets called. "For victims or they will come for our personnel," said Shaw. 

Captain Shaw says the firefighters also have to find friends or family to talk to about this. Also, having a good work and family balance is a must.

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