How first responders deal with tragedy

How first responders deal with tragedy
(Source: KAIT)

CRAIGHEAD COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - A deadly fire that tore through a home Wednesday and claimed the lives of three children affected both the family and first responders.

It took hours for several fire departments to extinguish the flames. Even after the fire was put out, crews on the scene are still left with the thought of knowing young twins and an infant died.

"First responders show up and get the job done, but they see these very difficult things and they deal with these very difficult things physically," said Keith Baker, chaplain for Jonesboro Fire Department. "They have a job to do so they sit all of that stuff aside but it hits them when they leave the scene and their minds begin to wind down."

Baker said bottling up feelings about the deadly experience they have witnessed could have long-term negative effects, which is why he feels the best way to deal with situations like this is to talk about it.

"What is really wonderful about first responders and the EMS community is that they understand this and they help each other with it and at some point in time this stuff has to come out," Baker said. "They need to talk about this because they internalize these things. If you talk about it, you can deal with it emotionally."

As a chaplain, Baker said it is also important that they know that dealing with these experiences is something they need God for.

"You have a few guys in their career with strings of things in their minds that they haven't let go of and when they close their eyes they see these horrible images again," Baker said. "Knowing that God wants to help them with this is very important."

Baker also mentioned remembering the bible scripture Psalms 23:4 as a way to cope with devastating experiences as a first responder.

"'Yea do I walk through the valley of the shadow of death', that is a clear description of what these people are seeing when they arrive in any kind of scene," Baker said. "'I will fear no evil', that means that God will carry them through that scene and any other scene they'll encounter during their career."

Baker said knowing the Lord is the only way they can deal with things like this because in most cases first responders beat themselves up about losses.

"They want to change it," Baker said. "There are some things that cannot be fixed and when you arrive at some scenes, there are things that cannot be reversed. I can tell them not to beat themselves up about it but I know they are because dealing when things happen like that it is hard to let go. Walking with the Lord and letting him guide you through this is the only way."

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