Carbonear firefighters coping well: chief
Days following fire call to Hayden Heights were hard ones
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.”
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.
Firefighters were called to this home on Hayden Heights in Carbonear early in the morning Sunday, April 24.