Fire Chiefs Talk About Multiple Line-of-Duty Deaths

Almost a week before two Boston firefighters were killed in a restaurant blaze, fire chiefs from around the country discuss the subject of multiple line-of-duty deaths

He said that the memorials that are erected after a line-of-duty-death are nice, but "the best monument you can build is the one inside yourself."

And in every case presented, several thorough investigations looked deep into each department's firefighting practices, looking to fix cracks in the system.

But If It Does Happen to You...

Coos Bay Chief Stan Gibson said that once it became clear that firefighters had died in the fire, crew members began to shut down. "The shock became too great for them," he said.

Almost immediately, fire officials knew they had to begin caring for the well-being of those left behind. He said he worked hard to maintain focus: on the fallen firefighter's families, on department members as a whole and even on community members.

"Your community is going to suffer with you."

On top of that, his normally small department was faced with an onslaught of media attention.

He said he needed support - and got it from chiefs around the country. He said he became immersed in being at the station with his firefighters and his wife had to remind him that she was there for him, too.

Gibson also offered advice for dealing with the investigations that will surely follow. Gibson said there would be lots of investigation, and therefore lots of finger-pointing and blame.

"You have to decide what part of the investigation you're going to buy into."

Finally, Gibson talked about what happens after the final firefighter is laid to rest and it's time to take the next step.

"There is a new normal," he said.

It will be hard as firefighters deal with their first landmark occasions after the fatal incident, like the first Christmas or the first birthday. Each department member is going to grieve differently, and department members will slowly begin to let go and move forward in their own time.

He said when firefighters quit saying "we should have done..." and began saying "we need to," he knew they were beginning to turn a corner.

Stay tuned to Firehouse.Com in the coming weeks to hear the session for yourself