Fatal fires can affect firefighters

By Lance Mihm – lmihm@civitasmedia.com

KALIDA, OHIO — Firefighting can be a stressful job.

web1_fire-1Sadly, Kalida Volunteer Fire Department firefighters learned that on the job Tuesday in a fire that resulted in a fatality. It was the fourth house fire to occur in the region in about two weeks, which have resulted in two deaths. The recent high number of fires has departments focusing on safety and the impact fatalities can have on the firefighters themselves.

“Whether its a run like this or a bad accident, it can have an emotional toll,” Kalida Fire Chief Dale Schulte said.

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Firefighters come from every walk of life, with different makeups and different personalities. So the effect it can have on them will differ from person to person.

“There is no easy way to tell,” Schulte said. “It can bother one guy different than the other guy.”

Like most departments, the Kalida Fire Department does have stress management practices set up, where firefighters can get the help they need if they are seeking it. The department is setting up avenues now for its volunteers for whatever help they may need. Kalida firefighter Tyler Good said it is important to have such practices in place.

“Everyone deals with the stress differently,” Good said. “Some may not be affected until five years down the road, and it hits. It is stressful, that is why the suicide rate is high among firefighters. Sometimes they are not talking to professionals. This something that saves our lives.”

Kalida Assistant Fire Chief Ryan Kerner said that firefighters just “do the best we can do” when walking in to any situation.

“Sometimes we can’t control the end,” Kerner said. “You just do everything you can do.”

Schulte said while every incident is unpredictable, homeowners can do plenty to minimize the risk during a fire. He said the biggest thing is making sure there are operational fire alarms in the home.

“Working smoke detectors can be the difference between life and death,” Schulte said.

Schulte said an escape plan should also be drawn out and a meeting place arranged outside the home in case of a fire. The practice is encouraged every year to elementary students. The hope is that they will go home and encourage their parents to have a plan.

“The kids will sometimes go home and force Mom and Dad to do it,” Kerner said. “A lot of it is just common sense.”

Schulte said it is also good practice to not leave any flame unattended, such as cooking or lighted candles. He said it is a good practice to change batteries in smoke detectors each time you change your clocks.

Reach Lance Mihm at 567-242-0409 or on Twitter @LanceMihm

Posted in Current Events, Fire Safety, Firefighter Health, PTSD.