Car­bon­ear fire­fight­ers cop­ing well: chief

Days fol­low­ing fire call to Hay­den Heights were hard ones

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON

In his 21 years as a fire­fighter in Car­bon­ear, Brent Sweeney con­sid­ers the past week to be the hard­est he’s ever faced.

“It’s just about the sad­dest,” Sweeney, the lo­cal fire chief, told The Com­pass Tues­day. “It hurts — it def­i­nitely do.”

For­tu­nately, mem­bers of the vol­un­teer bri­gade have each other’s back.

“We’ve al­ways been a tightknit group here. We’re even closer now.”

In the af­ter­math of re­spond­ing to a res­i­den­tial fire call on Hay­den Heights that proved fa­tal for a five-year-old girl and left her fa­ther charged with first-de­gree mur­der and ar­son, the fire chief has joined other mem­bers of the bri­gade for spe­cial coun­sel­ing ses­sions pro­vided by a group based in St. John’s.

“Our depart­ment is cop­ing as one would ex­pect,” said Sweeney, ac­knowl­edg­ing there’s been a deep sense of sad­ness felt through­out the depart­ment.

What helped the fire­fight­ers, in ad­di­tion to con­ver­sa­tions with grief coun­selors and talk amongst them­selves, was the out­pour­ing of sup­port from the pub­lic, mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers, gov­ern­ment agen­cies, and fel­low fire de­part­ments from across New­found­land and Labrador. Main­land fire brigades have even reached out.

“Ev­ery­one’s think­ing about us, and the fire ser­vice of New­found­land and Labrador, it’s very close,” said Sweeney. “It’s all as one — vol­un­teer fire de­part­ments, pro­fes­sional paid fire­fight­ers — we’re all there as one … It’s been phe­nom­e­nal.”

The Car­bon­ear Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment’s chief spoke with fel­low fire­fight­ers on a daily ba­sis fol­low­ing the tragic call to Hay­den Heights. Sweeney also cred­ited the spouses of fire­fight­ers for pro­vid­ing sup­port dur­ing a dif­fi­cult time. Coun­selors have met with them as well, he noted.

“We just don’t leave that here at the hall when you take off your bunker suit,” he said. “Some of this stuff af­fects home as well. It’s nat­u­ral.”

Since April 24, mem­bers of the depart­ment have been drop­ping by the fire hall to look af­ter house­keep­ing du­ties. In the event an emer­gency arises, Sweeney said they would be ready to go once again.

“We’re there, and as soon as that pager goes off, we’ll def­i­nitely re­spond to what­ever it is,” he said.

At the May 2 pub­lic meet­ing, Car­bon­ear coun­cil mem­bers ac­knowl­edged the dif­fi­cult job lo­cal fire­fight­ers faced pick­ing up the pieces af­ter such a trau­matic event.

“I’ve been on coun­cil al­most 26 years now, and that week was the rough­est week,” said Mayor Ge­orge Butt Jr. “The fire­men … every­thing was done very quickly and pro­fes­sion­ally. And even though they had to go through what they did, if they got a call the next night, they’d have been gone. We’ve got a won­der­ful bunch.”

COM­PASS FILE PHOTO

Brent Sweeney said the week that fol­lowed a tragic fire call at a home on Hay­den Heights was the sad­dest one he’s ever faced in 21 years with the depart­ment.

COM­PASS FILE PHOTO

Fire­fight­ers were called to this home on Hay­den Heights in Car­bon­ear early in the morn­ing Sun­day, April 24.

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