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PrattTribune - Pratt, KS
  • Tough calls take toll on firefighters

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  • They run to the fire.
    Pratt firefighters have answered numerous fire calls in Pratt this year and each time they respond as quick as they can.
    When the fire call came in on Dec. 23 that a house was on fire and children were inside, those firefighters responded a little faster.
    "We have some very, very exceptional dedicated guys," said Pratt Fire Chief David Kramer.
    Unfortunately, the firefighters were not able to save the lives of twin baby boys but they did save the life of the mother.
    This is not the way it is supposed to be. Firefighters are molded to get in and get the job done. But when that can't happen, it's a tough deal to face and the agony and pain shows on their faces, Kramer said.
    "I have seen this a number of times and it can be very difficult," Kramer said.
    When firefighters respond they are doing so as more than firefighters. They get emotionally involved and consider the property as if it were their property and the family as if it were their family.
    Because they take this personally, when a tragedy like this occurs it really takes a toll on the guys, Kramer said.
    For some of the newest firefighters, this was their first big structure fire and for many it was the first time someone died in a fire.
    Since this is such an emotional event for the firefighters, Kramer said some of the firefighters might be second-guessing themselves about what they could have done differently.
    Unfortunately, even when they do their best, it's just one of those things that they can't control. A couple of firefighters suffered burns to the head, face, wrists and ears when they tried to get into the house. But the atmosphere was just not right for a rescue operation, Kramer said.
    "We try to make the worst day of your life a little bit better. When we can't do that, it affects first responders in a different way. Sometimes it's very heart wrenching," Kramer said.
    Following the fire, as with every fire event, the crew returned to the station and went through a debriefing to evaluate everything that happened. Troy Bevins, Pratt County EMS paramedic also came to the debriefing and talked to the firefighters.
    Kramer said they to talked to everybody multiple times over Christmas and made sure the families knew what signs to look for that would indicate a firefighter was having trouble dealing with the tragedy.
    He made sure each firefighter knew that people were available to talk with them including a pastor that is on standby and a couple of others available if necessary. Mental health is also available if they need it, Kramer said.
    Page 2 of 2 - If a firefighter requests help, the officers will work to come up with resources for the firefighter and for the firefighters family as well.
    The department has close ties with the Wichita Fire Department and a number of their officers have also offered assistance.
    The fact that it was Christmas time amplified the stress of the event because it's a special time for families and the firefighters can see what the family that suffered the loss is going through.
    Kramer said they continue to monitor the situation and spend as much time as they can with the firefighters and provide any emotional support they need.
    "It's easy to tell yourself you are OK but in reality if you can't sleep and haven't slept for two days there's a lot of issues here," Kramer said. "We need to be made aware of those issues. We will get them the support they need."

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