1. #1
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post Help with post incident blues

    Hello everyone. I was wondering if I could get some ideas or basic assurance with a problem I am having following a critical incident.
    I am a volunteer firefighter in the suburban shadows of New York City. I have been a friefighter for 18 years, currently I'm a Lt. in the Engine/rescue company. The problem I am having stems from a recent rescue at a house fire. Early morning recently the tones went out for a house fire in my district. Strangely the house number was quite close to my residence, as it turns out, it was my next door neighbor a family I have known all of my life. There was black smoke pouring out of the garage and my neighbors wife was standing on the overhead balcony screaming to me to get her husband out of the house. I was obviuosly the first officer on scene and established command, however since I live two blocks from the firehouse, I rarely bring my gear home. My neighbor (a retired chemist) had been cleaning something with benzene in the garage, had dropped the glass jar the liquid was kept. It splashed all over him. Unfortunately, the furnace and hot water heater were only a couple of feet away and the fumes ignited casuing him severe burns. My attire, straight out of bed was nothing more than T-shirt, running shorts and sneakers. I had made a rescue of another neighbor years ago with little more clothing than I had on now and spent 3 days recovering. He was removed from the scene after the engine crew arrived (2 minutes after me, having a firehouse down the street is a wonderful thing). To cut this short, my neighbor died 8 weeks after the incident in the burn unit. He had second and third degree burns over 88 percent of his body and had some internal airway burns. I felt partially responsible for the extent of his injuries. I also cannot look his wife in the face after seing her plead for me to rescue him from the garage. He had come out of the garage when I arrived on scene but in my attempt to get the wife to safety as well, he returned to the fire to attempt to extinguish it. I spoke briefly to te CISD team immediately following the incident and felt OK with my decisions and actions then but I am now feeling differently because he has died. I can't even sit in my living room because I can picture my neighbor raking the yard or hanging clothes on the line. The clean up crews are working to disinfect and clean the house of smoke and water. I have trouble sleeping thinking of how his wife, son and daughter must deal with the tragedy over and over as they walk through the house.

    I know this has been lengthy but anyone that has a suggestion is welcome to submit. I know I am in God's company here and with you fine gentlemen/ladies for support I can work through this.

    God bless. Rescue Lt. Kevin C. (Pokey)

  2. #2
    Firehouse.com Guest



    First of all you must realize that you did not cause or contribute to this tragedy in any way. As you stated, the flammable liquid splashed onto this gentleman and the fumes ignited. Therefore, he was burned way before you arrived and there is nothing you can do about that. If you had entered without gear, you most probably would have become part of the problem and what good would that have done you. You certainly would not have prevented your neighbor's injuries because they were already there. As firefighters, we are not super human beings. We burn, cut, suffocate, and die just like everyone else. It's our equipment and gear which allows us to enter hostile environments and not just the fact that we are trained firefighters. As for the man's wife yelling at you to save her husband, that is normal human nature. She would have yelled at anyone at that point, firefighter or not. It's what we call self preservation and it applies to our family members as well as ourselves. We would say and do anything to save our loved ones, even if it's irrational. Without benefit of turnout gear, SCBA, or other equipment you were really there more as a neighbor than as a firefighter. It is normal to feel bad for fire victims and their families. It shows us just how fragile life can be. I would have done exactly as you did in this situation and I'm sure our brother and sister firefighters will also agree. Walk tall Lt. you have nothing to be ashamed of. God kept you out of that garage so you'll be around to help others. He knew that you could not save your neighbor because He was the one calling him home. Finally, I think that every one of us who has been involved in a fatal fire has felt guilt and questioned our actions. I know I certainly have. In the end we must rely on God, our family, and the knowledge that we have done our best.

    Mike Gentili
    New Bedford Fire Dept.

  3. #3
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Kevin I agree with the other post it is not your fault that this incident happened. You did all you could I believe that you said you helped the wife off the garage. What would have happened to her had you not helped. Not a whole lot to say but I am sure your feelings are normal if things don't start getting easier soon see about another debriefing all that has been done so far by the sounds of it so far is a defussing. If no support from your brother firemen try community mental health in your area. Please do not let this get way out of hand to where it destroys your life. It can creep up on you. Been in situation where I felt I was fine only to find out I still needed more counsling. The thing to remember is you did do all that you could. Please feel free to contact me through my e-mail address if you want to discuss more in depth.

    Les Hartford
    Captain, LMR VFD


  4. #4
    Firehouse.com Guest


    You did the best you could do brother , you also did the right thing. Everything happens for a reason. God knows you tried your best , sometimes things or situations are out of our control. God Bless...

  5. #5
    Firehouse.com Guest



    What you have described is indeed a critical incident but more than that it's location to your house and your being neighbors/friends has got to be even more difficult to deal with. I would suggest contacting your local Cism Team's clinical resources. I could also maybe reccommend other ideas for you if you wish to contact me directly via E-Mail outside of Forums.

    Fr. Jim Seymour
    Lawrence Fire Dept

    [This message has been edited by C-12 (edited March 01, 2000).]

  6. #6
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Dear Pokey,
    If you'd like to email me privately please do. Know in the meantime that you are not alone in this time of difficulty for you.

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