After the fire: Helping firefighters cope with tragedy

The devastation that can come from a fire often weighs heavy on those first responders who come to put it out. 

"Every firefighter who has a family can be affected by that. you have a child; you bring out a child. You're a human being who has emotions attached to that,” Charlotte Fire Battalion Chief Andrew Starnes said. 

The first week of the year alone was tragic, with a fire on Academy St. claiming the life of a mother and her two children.

"You're doing the best you can in the middle of the situation you didn't cause. You can't own that tragedy because if you do it will eat you up from the inside out.” 

Chief Starnes says he learned that the hard way.

"Back in 2010, my wife politely informed me that I was not handling things the right way."

He got the help and counseling he needed, then he decided to help his brothers and sisters facing the same struggles in the Charlotte Fire Department.

"So you're looking at peer support - individual to individual - we are similar rank or role. I'm not a counselor. We're trained in active listening skills and trained by two outside third party organizations that give them credibility."

This help is available to anyone in the Charlotte Fire Department-- recruits, retirees, dispatchers, and firefighters.

"We as responders teach the public to call 911, but when a responder as an issue, who do they call? That's our goal is to educate them about those resources, take away the stigma and that it's not weakness to call for help."

Because even the people who help us-- need a little help sometimes.

If you work for the Charlotte Fire Department and want to learn more, email Battalion Chief Andrew Starnes at AStarnes@charlottenc.gov.