A couple weeks ago, the following story appeared in the Boston Herald:
One man died and three other people were injured in a fatal, two-alarm fire in Burlington on Thursday, according to Burlington Fire and Police departments.
The fire that totally destroyed a home on Maryvale Road claimed the life of one man, while a neighbor and a delivery driver, who is being hailed as a hero, saved an elderly woman before firefighters had even arrived.
Burlington Fire and Police departments were called to the house around 1 p.m. on Thursday and immediately found heavy smoke and flames coming out of the front window.
“Thick smoke was billowing out of their living room window,” neighbor Cheryl Janes said. “It was very obvious no one could survive for long — there were flames jumping from the windows.”
You’ve read a story like this a hundred times before. In fact, you’ve seen it before. And, while every fire is different, one thing remains the same – when the fire is out, you have to get back into service, ready for the next call. You’ve done all you can, and you have to be the same hero to someone else as quickly as possible.
But what you may not know is what happens when you leave. The emotional toll every single person is now fighting. The scary world of insurance. The fire chasers. The flames of the fire may be out, but the devastation is just beginning.
The American Psychological Association (APA) says to all fire victims, “You have a long road ahead of you.”
Residential fires can lead to significant emotional distress in addition to possible physical injuries. Losing a home in a fire involves not only the loss of someone’s residence, but also many other things of value such as photo albums, important documents and treasured objects. Most importantly, though, the home is a place of security, comfort and safety. After a fire, this sense of security can also be lost and can significantly disrupt the normality of daily life.
As firefighters, we congratulate each other on a job well done. The fire is out, lives may have been saved, further damage was mitigated. But we cannot leave the fire scene any longer without looking at the big picture a victim now faces.
There are many resources available for fire victims and for firefighters. Consider the following and share your findings with the next victims you encounter. They are lost and looking to you for guidance, even if you must leave the scene.
- American Red Cross
- 1-800-BOARDUP Victim Services
- Salvation Army.
- Religious organizations.
- Public agencies, such as the public health department.
- Community groups.
- State or municipal emergency services offices
Do not leave an emergency scene without talking to the victims about these resources and making a call yourself. Protect your community even when you have to respond to another emergency. There is no excuse for leaving people alone and helpless any longer.