Firefighter Netcast- Recognizing and Preventing Fire Service Suicides
On a very special Firefighter Netcast show, John Mitchell welcomes back Jeff Dill, a Battalion Chief of the Palatine Rural Fire Protection District in Inverness, IL. B/C Dill is a nationally recognized authority on behavioral health issues within the fire service.
He established Counseling Services for Fire Fighters, LLC based on the tragic events that surrounded Hurricane Katrina. When speaking with firefighters who returned after serving the community of New Orleans, Jeff heard the pleas of firefighters who had a difficult time talking with counselors who did not have any firefighting experience. They became frustrated and never did seek the help they needed.
You can listen to Jeff’s last appearance on the Firefighter Netcast Show here: “Counseling For a Firefighter- By a Firefighter”
In this program, Chief Dill tells us about a new resource coming to the aid of the fire service. Last month, Chief Dill announced the formation of Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance (FBHA). The new 501(c) (3) organization was established to directly educate firefighters/ Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel and their families about behavioral health issues such as depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety and addictions, as well as firefighter suicides.
FBHA’s sole goal is to promote good mental health to the men and women of the fire service/EMS and their families, as well as make a significant difference in reducing the numbers of firefighters who are turning to suicide to ease their pain. FBHA Founder Jeff Dill holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling, and is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Illinois.
Joining Chief Dill will be a very special guest- retired Fire Chief Patrick Kenny of the Hinsdale (IL) Fire Department. Chief Kenny is the Assistant Executive Director of the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association and a representative at the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Seminar on Depression and Suicide.
Tragically, in 2006, Chief Kenny lost his son Sean to suicide. He reflects on the obstacles and challenges he faced as a father as well as a chief officer during his personal nightmare. Since then, Chief Kenny has travelled across the nation and around the world sharing his intensely personal story and promoting advocacy of mental health awareness in the fire service and beyond.
Find out more by visiting any the links above, or browsing these others:
Line of Duty Deaths
According to statistics from the United States Fire Administration, 57 firefighters have lost their lives in the line of duty to date this year. Here are the line of duty deaths for July, 2011:
Walter Hauser, Rochester (NY) Fire Department
We begin our tribute with a report from Rochester NY on the death of Firefighter Walter Hauser. On July 2nd, Firefighter Hauser succumbed to injuries sustained in an arson fire at McCurdy’s department store 30 years ago in which dozens of firefighters were injured.
Hauser went into the burning buildings to rescue other firefighters, apparently without adequate respiratory protection. Once outside, he went back in and rescued other firefighters.
Then he did it again and again.
Five times Walter Hauser went into that basement, each time saving the lives of his brothers,, each time inhaling toxic fumes. His lungs were permanently damaged from his life saving efforts, requiring Firefighter Hauser to endure incredible long-term medical treatment including a heart-lung transplant and a battle with cancer.
Hauser continued to work on light duty for the fire department for several years and then retired. He was 62.
Caleb Hamm, Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management
23-year old Firefighter Caleb Hamm fell ill while he was working on a fire line near Abilene, Texas. Hamm, a member of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Bonneville Interagency Hotshot crew, was being transported by helicopter to the hospital when he passed away from a cause still to be determined. Initial reports indicated that the extreme heat in Texas at the time may have been a factor in Hamm’s death.
Charles “Sparky” Sparks, Adair County (KY) Volunteer Fire Department
On July 8, Adair County (KY) Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Charles “Sparky” Sparks suffered an apparent heart attack while he was operating on the interior of a residential structure fire. Chief Sparks was well known as a hazardous materials specialist, deputy state fire marshal, and part time fire rescue instructor for the State of Kentucky.
John Lackovic, Valley Forge (PA) Volunteer Fire Company
On July 11, approximately four hours after Valley Forge (PA) Volunteer Fire Company Fire Police Lieutenant John Lackovic responded to a report of a motorcycle accident, he began experiencing difficulty breathing and eventually went into cardiac arrest.
60-year old Lieutenant Lackovic began his fire service career in 1968 and served with the Washington Hose Company in Coatesville (PA), the College Park Fire Department, the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Fire Marshall’s Office, and joined Valley Forge in 2001.
He will always be remembered for his calm composure and dealing with taxing situations with an unflappable coolness. Because of his extensive knowledge in fire science and fire behavior, John was often known to help young firefighters in their path as successful firefighters.
Travis Lee Miller, Waterloo – Grant Township (IN) Fire Department
On July 20, 31-year old Firefighter Travis Lee Miller, of the Waterloo – Grant Township (IN) Fire Department, died of an apparent heart attack shortly after returning home from working a residential structure fire in Butler, Indiana. Heat conditions on the fireground were described by local authorities as extreme.
Gaston Gagne, Baytown (TX) Fire Department
On July 25, Baytown (TX) Fire Department Firefighter Gaston Gagne passed away from an apparent heart attack after returning home from responding to three incidents earlier that day. Firefighter Gagne served more than 18 years with the Baytown Fire Department, where he belonged to several groups such as serving as a member of the HAZMAT team, a member of BEAT Alley’s youth fire prevention team and most recently he joined several others in establishing a regional collapse rescue team. He was 46.
Jeffrey Scott Bowen, Asheville (NC) Fire Department
On July 28th, Asheville (NC) Captain Jeff Bowen responded with his fire department to a four alarm fire at an office building. While engaged in search and rescue operations, Bowen became disoriented, succumbing to the intense smoke and heat from the fire and going into cardiac arrest. RIT members located Captain Bowen and removed him from the structure but Captain Bowen did not survive his injuries. Several other firefighters were injured in the incident. None of the injuries are reported to be life threatening. Captain Bowen was a thirteen year fire service veteran and a husband and father of three children. He was 37 years of age.
Timothy Oliveira, Salisbury (MA) Fire Rescue
On July 29th, Salisbury (MA) Fire Rescue’s Lieutenant Tim Oliveira, who was in charge of vehicle maintenance for the department, was crushed Friday when a jack slipped while he worked beneath a fire department vehicle. He was 53.
Please pause and extend your thoughts and prayers to the families, friends, and brother and sister partners in the fire service who have been left behind.