Salt River Fire Department accident

Start Date: 2022-04-13

Description: This was a 3 day deployment. Day 1: 4/13/22 A small group of firefighters/EMTs came to the Support Debriefing mtg. Several present from other local stations that were also first responders at the tragic traffic accident of last Friday where they lost one of their own. The two young EMT's were in a box ambulance responding to a 911 call when they were hit broadside by a Semi-truck carrying cement. The EMT driving was killed instantly and the other EMT is in extremely critical condition and fighting for his life. Both these guys new on the Dept. and in their early 20's. This was a very emotional time where the firefighters were given the opportunity to talk if they wanted to, given info on getting counseling if they wanted and to support one another. One EMT spoke of being first on the scene and being confused at what he was seeing. A mangled wreckage and fireball of the ambulance. He started hosing the ambulance down only to realize the injured guys were in the cab that was now sitting on the other side of the Highway. He hasn't slept well since. Tears rolling silently down his face as he leaned over to pet Maxx's head. They all said it's one thing to go out and save lives. It's what they do every day. It's another to find out it's two of your own that are involved. These guys are close. There is a bond, a Brotherhood among all of them. It was quite emotional and Hal the Support Counselor spoke to the group quite a bit and at the end said, "Let me finish by saying... A very important.. the MOST important word to remember is what's on the back of the vest Maxx is wearing today.... HOPE. In your jobs, you must never lose sight of HOPE". It was a very touching moment. Tracy and Evelyn came in towards the end of our meeting and were able to let the guys pet and visit with Evelyn too for a few minutes. Day 2: 4/14/22 - Tracy and I both arrived at the Fire Station just before 9am. There were about 30 First Responders standing around out in front. They had just finished up with a Flag Ceremony and were all headed back to their Stations but had an opportunity to visit with our dogs, take some pics and get their Trading Cards. We then went inside to the Training room where we had been yesterday and spend an hour of so visiting with Chris Kenitzer again along with a woman who is a Front Office Secretary at nearby Station 291. She's been there over 20 years and was very affected and saddened by the recent accident. She heard all the commotion and calls over her radio. She heard the yells and emotions of those responding to the scene. She spoke very softly, and opened up to Chris's questions and comments as he tried to offer support to her. After some time and petting the dogs, we saw a change through her grief. Still there of course, but mixed with smiles and even a bit of laughter as Evelyn went over and put her paw on the woman's hand and just "held" her hand for some time. We finished up talking inside and we all walked around to the back where the crew were all busy washing up Ladder Truck #294 and visiting Ladder Truck #293, getting them ready to drive down to Globe, AZ for the funeral this weekend. Ladder Trucks will display the crossed Ladder formation with the American Flag between them. We offered our support for the Funeral Service as well if they wanted us and Chris said he thought it would be Private. Tracy and I spoke by phone on the drive home and said visiting with this one woman was huge. It was just her for most of the visit and yet we made a huge difference to that one person. She would have never opened and talked if there had been a large group of people in the room. We were thankful we could be there for her. Day 3: 4/15/22 - Tracy and I were there again this am just before 9am. We met with Hal and Chris again for about 15 minutes, Chris had sent out emails to the Stations telling them Support Debriefing was available again, but we didn't get any takers today. They all seemed pretty busy with getting things lined up and ready for tomorrow's funeral. Chris even brought Bagel Dog Treats for our pups! I asked Chris if we might go on over to the Station 291 and just visit informally with the crew for a few minutes. He thought it was a wonderful idea and excitedly say "YES!!" We drove over and visited with about 6 of the crew. The neighboring Police Dept. had a couple guys come over and we gave them our cards and a HOPE Brochure also and they promised they'd be calling us, telling us they LOVE the dogs. One last thing I want to mention and sorry this is getting long.. (it WAS 3 days of visits), is we felt it appropriate and necessary to show support and honor to these guys. Coming to work, putting on the uniform and getting right back into those ambulances and fire trucks, despite their own personal grief and tremendous loss and sorrow they are all dealing with. We decided to give Engineer Chris a HOPE Challenge Coin to share with his peers and he was so deeply touched and honored. He hugged us both and was truly appreciative of the gesture. In giving this meaningful show of our support today, we additionally want to reach out to HOPE President and the BOARD and encourage you and ask that you bring back these beautiful HOPE Challenge Coins and allow members to purchase them for times exactly like these. I've been holding on to this coin I bought at my Workshop 3 years ago, waiting for just the right time and person to give this to. This incident and this deployment was that time. Chris said he would share this with all his peers and find a special way to display this coin. With all going on in our world today and the emotionally drained First Responders trying to keep it together and do their jobs every day to protect all of us..... this small token of appreciation and support carries its weight ten-fold to these guys/gals. Great Opportunity to share our Dogs with First Responders in our own City and we decided we'll give them a few weeks to get through the funeral and everything going on, and we'll go back with our dogs and take some cookies and check in on them again.

Agency: Salt River Fire Department Stn.#294
Teams: Tracy Stofflet & Evelyn