Archive for category Fire Service News

The effect of repeated exposure trauma on firefighters

Excerpts from

 Many research studies have focused on firefighter mental health challenges due to a single traumatic event. But what about repeated exposure to such events? This article details findings from a research project1 that studied the impact of repeated exposure trauma (RET) on firefighters.Across the country, firefighters are responding to fewer fires but are increasingly called upon to provide Emergency Medical Services (EMS), perform search and rescue, and react to hazardous materials incidents and natural disasters. They come across a wide variety of tragic situations that play out in or around their homes, along highways, and in every other conceivable part of their communities.
RET — the cumulative effect of regularly caring for the broken bodies and wounded minds of victims and their families — is thought to have a negative psychological impact on firefighters’ own mental health. Previous studies have looked at firefighter mental health challenges in the context of post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), which relies on assessment instruments attuned to one particular traumatic event.

Takeaways from previous studies

  • Evidence shows that rates of depression among fire and EMS personnel are higher than in the general population.
  • Firefighters have higher rates of alcohol use and binge drinking compared to the general population. There is a possible connection between risky drinking behaviors and PTSD.
  • Firefighters experience “secondary trauma” or “compassion fatigue” from repeated exposure to trauma. They may not be diagnosed with PTSD, but clearly suffer from symptoms such as sleep disorders, avoidance behaviors, and feelings of helplessness that are associated with PTSD.

Takeaways from this study

Firefighting and mental health: experiences of repeated exposure to trauma

  • It is more common for firefighters to experience a negative mental health impact from a series of traumatic events rather than from one single event.
  • Symptoms of RET for most firefighters include desensitization, irritability, cynicism and intrusive flashbacks.
  • Many firefighters appear to effectively manage their emotional response to trauma. Future research should explore their protective coping methods and resiliency.

The research article is available through our library by contacting Interested readers may be able to access the article through their local library or through the publisher’s website.

1 Jahnke, S. A., Poston, W. S., Haddock, C. K., & Murphy, B. (2016). Firefighting and mental health: Experiences of repeated exposure to trauma. Work, 53(4), 737-744. doi:10.3233/wor-162255

Tags: , ,

Fire service loses a good friend, George Reichhardt

George ReichardtGeorge C. Reichhardt,

It is with great sadness that we mention the loss of a friend. George Reichhardt served with the East Joliet Fire Protection District, retired as a captain with the Fermilab Fire Department, and was a lifelong fire service enthusiast. George spent many years documenting new and old apparatus from area fire departments with other photographers.

George C. Reichhardt 77, of Joliet, passed away Sunday, January 14, 2018 at Adventist GlenOaks Hospital, Glendale Heights. George was born in Joliet to the late Charles F. and Catherine M. (nee Briski) Reichhardt. Survived by his daughter Julie K. Reichhardt; a brother Donald J. (Barbara) Reichhardt and a sister Katherine Sheck; he is also survived by step-children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and many beloved friends. He was preceded in death by his parents and a granddaughter Christina A. Bourg. George was a founding member of Fire Buffs of Illinois, he was a member of HOIFEC (Heart of Illinois Fire Enthusiasts and Collectors), SPAAMFAA (Society for the Preservation and Appreciation of Antique Motor Fire Apparatus in America), International Fire Photographers Association, Reichhardt Raiders, and Blitz Brothers. He was employed as a firefighter at the Army Ammunition Plant, East Joliet Fire Protection District, Fermilab, and Rockdale Fire Protection District. He was also a FAE Instructor and MABAS 15 Fire Photographer. His hobbies included photographing fire trucks, fires, trains, towboats, collecting fire memorabilia, and he really enjoyed riding Chicago Squad 3 in the early days. His publications include: Fire Apparatus Photo Album of the Ford Tilt Cabs – The Visiting Fireman, 1985 (Editor) and Darley Fire Apparatus – The Visiting Fireman, 1987 (Editor). George also received numerous awards and certificates throughout his career. The family will receive friends at Kurtz Memorial Chapel 102 E. Frances Rd, New Lenox on Thursday, January 18, 2018 from 2:00pm until time of services at 8:00pm. A fire department walk through will begin at 7PM.


Funeral arrangements for George Reichhardt

George Reichhardt Bell Ceremony

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Close before you Doze fire safety campaign

Close before you Doze campaign

click on the press release for a larger downloadable file

Tags: ,

Box Alarm fire in Des Plaines, 1-10-18

Des Plaines firefighters responded to a fire at Maine Scrap Metals at 1274 Rand Road just after 11PM on Wednesday (1/10/18). They arrived and had fire inside the building and upgraded the alarm to a working fire. Within minutes they were defensive with flames through the roof and a compromised exterior wall. The alarm was upgraded to a MABAS Box Alarm as master streams were put into operation. Eventually four elevated streams were deployed from Des Plaines Tower 61, Des Plaines Tower 63, Niles Truck 2, and Chicago Squad 7A. 

After the bulk of the fire was out and access to the smoldering fire was difficult due to the roof collapse, a front end loader was brought in to knock down the remains of the D-Sector wall which bordered a limousine company. Several parked vehicles were damaged on this property. Mount Prospect Hose/Foam Tender 12 was called several hours later and they applied one large tub of foam in hopes of smothering the stubborn remnants of fire.

Companies at the scene included Des Plaines Engines 61, 62, 63, Towers 61 63, Ambulances 61, 62, 63, Battalion 61, 6101, and 6100. Mutual aid engines came from Wheeling, Mount Prospect, Elk Grove Village, Park Ridge, and Skokie. Trucks came from Arlington Heights, Niles, and Schiller Park. Squads were from Prospect Heights and Chicago Squad 7 from O’Hare. Ambulances on the scene were from Mount Prospect, North Maine, Niles, and Park Ridge. Chief officers came from Mount Prospect, Elk Grove Village, North Maine, Schiller Park, and Chicago.

While companies were still working this fire, Des Plaines had a working fire on the south end of town. 

There will be more images and videos from this fire.

flames through the roof of commercial building

Larry Shapiro photo

Des Plaines Tower Ladder 61 Pierce tower ladder battles a fire

Larry Shapiro photo

Chicago FD Squad 7A at a fire Rosenbauer Commander ACP-55 Cobra Articulating platform

Larry Shapiro photo

Des Plaines Firefighters with Draeger SCBA fighting a fire

Larry Shapiro photo

Firefighters in Pierce tower ladder overhaul fire

Larry Shapiro photo

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Ice rescue in Chicago, 12-31-17

This from Tim Olk:

Woman Falls From Bridge At 35th And Racine Lands On Ice In Chicago

FD divers rescue a victim from a frozen river

Tim Olk photo

FD divers rescue a victim from a frozen river

Tim Olk photo

FD divers rescue a victim from a frozen river

Tim Olk photo

FD divers rescue a victim from a frozen river

Tim Olk photo

Tags: , , , ,

Cancer in the fire Service

Excerpts from the

Fire departments have been taking extra steps – many of which involve changing some long-held mindsets – to reduce exposure to carcinogens.

Dirty gear used to be points of pride among firefighters – and with some they might still be considered as such. But now many fire departments are trying to teach their personnel that dirty coats and soot-blackened helmets represent cancer risks to be avoided.

Studies have shown firefighters developing or at risk of developing cancer at a higher rate than the general population – nearly twice as much with some forms of cancer such as testicular or malignant mesothelioma. Some firefighters call it an epidemic that’s been sweeping through the ranks for several years now, in large part due to the toxic exposures from fires.

The International Association of Fire Fighters claims occupational cancer has become the leading cause of death for firefighters nationwide. Since 2002, 60 percent of the names added to its Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial Walls are people who died from occupational cancers. In its online checklist for reducing exposure risk to carcinogens, the IAFF starts the group of self-actions with eliminating the attitude of “The dirtier the gear, the tougher and more experienced I am.”

From keeping all gear on during overhaul, getting sprayed down, and using wet wipes on-site to washing gear and showering at the station, men and women in the fire service have been working to develop a new, more intensive routine.

Like many veteran firefighters, Kirk Stobart, president of Independence’s (MO) firefighters union can recall when blackened gear was a matter of pride.

“If your gear wasn’t dirty, you weren’t doing your job,” said Stobart, a 26-year firefighter. “They used to make fun of the people that had clean gear.”

“Back in the day, it was like a badge of honor to have dirty gear, a dirty helmet,” adds Sam Persell, assistant chief of the Central Jackson County Fire Protection District.

Said recently retired Independence Fire Chief John Greene, “The dirty gear, soot on the helmet, black snot – now we know all that is just signing your death certificate early.”

For those whose career began about the same time as Stobart, Persell and Greene, it might not be easy to ditch that attitude. Some might have scoffed at the notion of firefighting leading to cancer like it can a heart attack or stroke.

“Now we’ve gotten to the point where guys in the field don’t have to be told, do gross decon right on the scene. It’s amazing to see how well-accepted it’s been. It makes me pretty proud of what our union and management has done.”

Similarly, Persell refers to a former assistant chief in the department who received a cancer diagnosis. Persell helped enact a program of yearly physicals for all firefighters in CJC – starting from the point of hiring – and those check-ups helped catch cancer in a few firefighters, allowing them a chance to get treatment and either return to fire service or retire.

“We train them, we teach them right off the bat, to maintain a sense of wellness and health,” Persell said. “We’ll get to where we want to be. You can’t argue the data (about fire service cancer deaths). The data is there, and it’s ever-increasing. Guys are saying, ‘I don’t want my family to go through that.’”

Firefighters have often battled a far different fire than their predecessors did. The materials used in housing and other buildings contain far more plastics, petroleums and other synthetics that emit poisonous soot and fumes. Through skin absorption or inhalation, firefighters can easily be exposed, and particles can remain on gear not properly cleaned.

“Those old firefighters that taught me,? Stobart said, “they battled solid wood and natural stuff.”

For those who maintained the dirty gear badge of honor, or transported that gear in their civilian vehicle and even into their homes, it would be potentially hazardous.

Even before on-site decontamination, chiefs have implored firefighters to keep all their gear on while going through overhaul,  instead of shedding the coat and mask as some might do, particularly on warm days.

Many times, wet wipes are available to clean the hands, face and neck after a fire. Gear should be removed, if not bagged as well, to return to the station, then washed in commercial-grade extractor washers designed to fully decontaminate fire clothing. Such machines have different settings for inner and outer layers and wash only one or two sets at a time. Helmets have to be scrubbed by hand, and inside of fire trucks should also be wiped down.

Extra gear allows firefighters to shed a dirty set, shower at the station, and be ready to don clean gear and head back out if necessary in less than an hour.

Persell said he even recommends a stationary bike session to work up a sweat for further detox.

Stobart said he fears the cancer issue in the fire service will get even worse before it gets better – many veterans could already be affected, and it will take time for many anti-exposure measures to fully take root – but hopefully the veterans now are setting a positive new standard.

Tags: , , ,

Fire service news


The House of Representatives Monday night passed the United States Fire Administration, AFG, and SAFER Program Reauthorization Act (H.R. 4661) under suspension of the rules of the House, which usually is reserved for non-controversial legislation.

The bill would:

  • Authorize $76.49 million in funding for the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) through Fiscal Year (FY) 2023.
  • Authorize approximately $750 million each for the Assistance for Firefighters Grant (AFG; also known as the “FIRE grant”) program and Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs through FY 2023.
  • Move the “sunset date” for the AFG and SAFER grant programs to September 30, 2024.
  • Clarify that SAFER grant funds can be used to change the status of part-time firefighters to full-time positions.
  • Develop online training programs, through USFA, to help fire departments better manage AFG and SAFER grants.
  • Develop a framework and take measures at the Federal Emergency Management Agency to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse of AFG and SAFER grant programs.

We also thank all IAFC members who contacted their representatives urging reauthorization of the FIRE/SAFER grant programs.

The IAFC is working to encourage the Senate to pass the legislation this week.

Tags: , ,

Chicago Fire Department history

This from Steve Redick:

  • 5-11-39, 3-11 and 6 specials at 3532 E 103rd st
    Rosenbaum & Norris Grain Elevators E-37 trip 1hr 28min / pumped 53 hrs 35min / on the west bank of the Calumet River. In this image if you look closely there are 7 foxes drafting visible and a steamer in ther background. I aquired this image from the collection of Howard Hensel. I think he may have been the photographer, it appears to be an original picture, very small in size. 
  • Looks like he sent the first picture to the Ahrens Fox Fire Engine Company and he received a cool reply on original company letterhead from John Ahrens
  • Another Howard Hensel shot of Truck 2
  • Truck 11 1930
  •  I believe Howard was a friend of my mentor Jack Turner. I’m pretty sure Jack gave me these images.


vintage Ahrens Fox fire engines at work

5-11-39, 3-11 and 6 specials at 3532 E 103rd st – Rosenbaum & Norris Grain Elevators

Howard Hensel shot of Chicago FD Truck 2

Howard Hensel shot of Chicago FD Truck 2

Howard Hensel shot of Chicago FD Truck 11 1930

Howard Hensel shot of Chicago FD Truck 11 1930

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Pleasantview Fire District news (more)

Excerpts from

Brandon Clevenger pleaded guilty this morning to reckless driving causing death in the highway crash that killed Comstock Fire Chief Ed Switalski six months ago.

Replying in one-word answers, Clevenger, 24, of Battle Creek, admitted in Kalamazoo County Circuit Court that he was responsible for the crash. He faces penalties of up to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced Jan. 29. He has no prior felony convictions.

Switalski was cleaning up the scene of a previous crash on eastbound Interstate 94, when Clevenger, driving past, lost control of his own vehicle and hit Switalski. The fire chief died at the scene.

Investigators said a car data recorder indicated Clevenger was traveling at speeds as high as 90 mph at the time and crashed into a barrier at 87 mph. Additionally, an analysis of Clevenger’s phone showed he was using it before the collision.

Three months after the crash, a warrant was issued against Clevenger. He turned himself in, and after arraignment was released on a personal recognizance bond.

Tags: , , , , , ,


Excerpts from

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) released the latest edition of it’s “U.S. Firefighter Injuries” report, which highlights data on injuries sustained by firefighters on duty in 2016. The statistics were collected from fire departments responding to NFPA’s annual U.S. Fire Experience survey.

There were 62,085 U.S. firefighter injuries in 2016, reflecting an 8.8 percent decrease from 2015, making this the lowest rate of injury since 1981, when NFPA began analyzing firefighter injury data. Of those injuries, 19,050 (30.6 percent) resulted in lost time.

The leading injury types in 2016 were: Strains, sprains and/or muscular pains (52.6 percent), and wounds, cuts, bleeding, and bruising (15.2 percent) 

Firefighters were more likely to be injured on the fireground resulting in 24,325 (39.2 percent) of the firefighter injuries.  The leading cause of injury during fireground operations was overexertion and strain (27.1 percent). Injuries also occurred off the fireground. Other types of duty that resulted in firefighter injury were:

  • Non-fire emergency incidents (20.6 percent)
  • Other on-duty activities (18.2 percent)
  • Training activities (13.7 percent)

While responding to or returning from an incident an estimated 15,425 collisions occurred involving fire department emergency vehicles resulting in 700 firefighter injuries (8.4 percent).

There were also 9,275 documented exposures to infectious diseases (e.g., hepatitis, meningitis, and HIV) in 2016, along with an estimated 36,475 documented exposures to hazardous conditions (e.g., asbestos, chemicals, fumes, and radioactive materials). The documented exposures to hazardous conditions represents a 34 percent increase as compared to 2015. 

Tags: , , , ,